Late birdies lift Stenson to title over Rory, Rose


Henrik Stenson hit his tee shot to a foot on the 17th hole Sunday to dramatically defend his title at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Here’s the skinny on the final round at Jumeirah Golf Estates:

The leaderboard: Henrik Stenson (-16); Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Victor Dubuisson at (-14); Shane Lowry (-13)

What it means: After sweeping titles on both sides of the Atlantic in 2013, Stenson was relatively quiet over the past year. He admittedly was exhausted after a late-season surge took him all around the world, his jet-setting affecting his play in early 2014, when he didn’t record a top 10 until Bay Hill. He made up for it in Europe’s finale, however, and with three top 3s in his past four starts, he now will leapfrog Adam Scott for the No. 2 spot in the world ranking. Stenson finished No. 2 in the Race to Dubai and earned the $800,000 bonus; McIlroy had already wrapped up the year-end title.

Round of the day: Stenson wasn’t doing much of anything, cruising along at even par for the day with two holes to play, before his tee shot on the 17th got a generous kick off a mound and settled within a few inches of the cup for a birdie-2. That moved him one clear of a trio of European Ryder Cuppers, who needed to shoot in the 60s just to give themselves a chance for the title. Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy both missed 10-foot birdie putts at the last that would have sent them to 15-under 273. Stenson, meanwhile, wedged to 6 feet on 18 for another birdie and two-shot victory.

Best of the rest: Rory McIlroy shot 68 to tie for second in his last European Tour event of the season, but it was Shane Lowry who made the biggest move. His closing 66 not only moved him to solo fifth, but it also vaulted him into the top 50 in the world ranking, securing a spot in all of the 2015 majors and World Golf Championship events.

Biggest disappointment: Rafael Cabrera-Bello threw away a lot of holiday cash over his closing nine holes. Leading a pack of more accomplished players, Cabrera-Bello made bogey on 12, then found the water on both Nos. 16 and 17, carding double bogeys, to come home in 41. That dropped him from the solo lead to a tie for ninth.

Shot of the day: Needing a late spark to defend his title, Stenson’s tee shot on the 195-yard 17th kicked off a mound short of the green and settled within a foot of the cup, guaranteeing him a birdie and one-shot lead heading to the last. A year ago, he hit a fairway wood to 3 feet on the last to set up an eagle and blowout victory, a shot so memorable that there now is a plaque in the fairway. This was even more dramatic.

Quote of the day: Stenson on his end-of-the-year plans: “I’m going to go into hiding – good luck trying to find me. I’ve got some more time off with my family back in Florida, and I’m really going to enjoy it. It’s going to be even sweeter to go on break with this win. It was a winless season for me, but still a good one. This was the icing on the cake.”