Justin Harding claimed his first European Tour title in emphatic fashion after posting a sensational final round six under par 66 to claim the 2019 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and lift the iconic Mother of Pearl Trophy.
The South African, who finished third on last year’s Asian Tour Order of Merit, started the final round three shots off the lead following a disappointing one over par 77 on Saturday but he soon forgot about that after picking up three birdies in his opening four holes. The 33 year old gave two back to the course on six and seven to make the turn in 35 before moving up a gear on the homeward stretch on the Peter Harradine designed Doha Golf Club course. The seven-time Sunshine Tour winner carded four birdies on the back nine including three in his last four holes to seal a memorable victory by two shots on 13 under par.
“It feels fantastic to get the win; it still hasn’t settled in,” said Harding, who had two top fives and three further top 20s from eight events coming into this week. “I didn’t quite think I had done enough to get the win, I thought it was going to go to a play-off but I’m happy I’ve finally got over the line.
“I’ve been knocking on the door for a little while and seeing my hard work pay off has really made me very happy; I’ve got the shakes! I got off to a good start today and then lost my head for about three or four holes but my caddie had a word with me which picked me up and I managed to keep myself in it. Making birdie at 17 and 18 was huge and I didn’t think that was going to be enough but I’m delighted it was.”
A staggering nine players shared second spot with Jinho Choi, George Coetzee, Jorge Campillo, Anton Karlsson, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Mike Lorenzo Vera, Erik Van Rooyen, Nacho Elvira and third round leader Oliver Wilson all finishing two shots off the pace in the final leg of the European Tour’s Desert Swing.
South Korea’s Choi had set the benchmark earlier in the day with a breathtaking eight under par 64 to take the clubhouse lead on 11 under par but would have been disappointed not to add another birdie to his tally after missing a short putt at the last.
Thomas Detry, Andy Sullivan and Fabrizio Zanotti finished one further back to take a slice of 11th place on ten under par. It was another near miss for Zanotti after finishing one stroke behind Kurt Kitayama at last week’s Oman Open but the Paraguayan remained upbeat with where his game is at.
“I am very happy with my golf right now,” said Zanotti, whose last triumph came at the 2017 Maybank Championship. “I’m putting myself in contention and on a Sunday and that’s a good thing. I just keep working hard and progressing and hopefully I can get back in the winner’s circle soon enough.”
Nick Cullen, Maximilian Kieffer, Jeff Winther and 2018 Challenge Tour Grand Final winner Adri Arnaus shared 14th position while Bradley Dredge and Mikko Korhonen split 18th place.
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