DUBAI: Part-time artist Robert-Jan Derksen produced a Dutch masterpiece to stun South African superstar Ernie Els and win the US$1.88mil Dubai Desert Classic here yesterday.
A confident-looking Els was coasting along two strokes clear of the field with seven holes left to play, when the picture changed dramatically in the space of a minute with a four-stroke swing.
First Derksen, who lists abstract painting among his hobbies, sunk a 60-footer for a remarkable eagle-three at the 13th and then Els showed he was human after all with a double-bogey six at the 12th.
The 29-year-old from Nijmegen, who had scraped into what was only his third tournament of the year, found himself two in front and he kept his head under pressure over the closing stretch to come in with a day’s best seven-under 65 and a 17-under par total of 271.
That gave him victory by one stroke over Els who missed a 25-foot putt on the last to force a playoff.
"It's unbelievable," said Derksen. "I was struggling just to get into tournaments at the beginning of this year but this week it has just all come together."
Els said he had made only one mistake (on the 12th) and paid the penalty for it.
“I had 175 yards to the hole into the wind and it was just in the first cut,” he said.
“I hit this seven iron and just hit it long and it flew. It flew 200 yards and I had no shot from there. No shot. So I made a double there.”
Els had started the day at 13-under, tied for the lead with David Lynn of England and Alastair Forsyth of Scotland. Derksen was three adrift.
He made his move as early as the second, his huge drive bounding on to the green on the par-four, 351-yard hole for a birdie and followed with another birdie at the next.
That gave him the outright lead and he moved smoothly two strokes clear with a magnificent 25-foot putt from the edge of the green at the par-three 11th.
At that stage the expectation was that Els would power away from the chasing pack in thoroughbred fashion.
But instead, the tournament was turned on his head and his bid to win for the fifth time win in seven starts was suddenly under a major threat.
Els showed his class after the double bogey by clawing his way back level with birdies at the 13th and 15th, but Derksen set up his first ever tour triumph with a seven-footer for a birdie four at the last.
Minutes later Els was off the back of the par-five green in two, but a poor chip left him too much to do and his missed 25-footer for birdie brought delight to the Dutch. – AFP