European tourney leader hit one in water, then another. And then? A miracle
Daniel Gavins, his strange turns of events over, was asked for his thoughts, and his eyes got big, he rubbed his nose and he took a deep breath. That said it all really. Though his first six words confirmed things.
“I’m pretty speechless, to be honest.”
You were very likely not alone, Daniel. In a sentence, he had gone from a near-certain winner on Sunday at the DP World Tour’s Ras Al Khaimah Championship, to a near-certain collapse, to a near-certain champion again, all in the span of the 18th at Al Hamra Golf Club. In real time, though, there were few words, as Gavin said.
“Can you believe it?” an announcer echoed on Golf Channel.
That comment came at the end. So we must start at the beginning, on the tee on the 576-yard par-5. Starting the final round two back of the lead, Gavins took it by the fifth hole, maintained at least a share of it over the next 12 and was now up two. He was going to win for the second time on the formerly named European Tour.
Then, with water along the right side of the hole, he sliced his tee shot into it.
“Don’t do that. Don’t do that,” an announcer said on Golf Channel. “That’s miles in the lake.”
Up ahead, though, Alexander Bjork bogeyed, and Gavins’ advantage was now three. The Englishman was in the fairway after a second tee shot, and he was still good.
Then, with water along the right side of the hole, he hit a 3-wood into it.
Did Gavins know his lead? Why didn’t he lay up? All good questions. At one point while walking to his ball, he bit into the back of his hat.
“Oh, it’s just horrid, isn’t it, for Daniel Gavins,” an announcer on Golf Channel said.
“Ask, ask somebody before you play. You can ask,” another announcer said. “What’s the best score in? What’s Bjork made? He’s made a six; he won’t be hitting a 3-wood.”
“Amazing what nerves can do,” the first announcer said. “Perhaps a slight lack of clear thinking.”
From here, you know the ending, but there’s still a twist. About 50 yards away from the hole now and hitting stroke six, Gavins managed a pitch to 26 feet. On the tee behind him was Zander Lombard, who was four back, and here’s the math: If Gavins tripled the hole, and Lombard eagled, Lombard would win by one.
Then Gavins split the middle of the hole with his ball. And Gavins was your winner, after Lombard only birdied.
“That is absolutely stunning, isn’t it, from Daniel Gavins,” one Golf Channel announcer said after the putt.
“And there you go, what a game it is,” another said. “And he’s just turned a massive negative into the biggest positive you’ve ever seen.”
“You have to be overjoyed for him to see that,” one more said. “If he misses that and doesn’t win this tournament — look, it’s still alive with Lombard — that could set you back huge. Fabulous putt. Great putt.”
But there’s a bit more.
When Gavins rolled in his putt for the double-bogey seven, his reaction was somewhat muted; he fist-pumped slightly and he stared off into the water, his nemesis. He thought he led by two, not three.
He thought his putt was for the playoff, with Bjork and potentially Lombard.
He was wrong.
“To be fair, I thought I was holing it for the playoff; I didn’t realize Bjork made bogey,” Gavins said afterward. “I thought it was for a playoff, so I just kind of …”
He shook his head.
It was understandable.