Sunday 18 November 2018

Rose returns to world number one spot with victory in Turkey

Justin Rose celebrates with the trophy after his Turkish Airlines Open win. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
Justin Rose celebrates with the trophy after his Turkish Airlines Open win. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Winning Majors doesn't make you immune to Sunday afternoon pressure, but it worked out in the end for Justin Rose as he retained the Turkish Airlines Open after a nerve-tingling play-off and returned to world No 1.

As Pádraig Harrington's bogey-bogey finish meant he failed to qualify by right for the Nedbank Golf Challenge and must use an invitation to play for non-official money, former US Open champion Rose (38) kept just cool enough to edge out China's Haotong Li in sudden-death.

Rose erased Li's three-shot overnight lead after 10 holes, setting up a tense battle down the stretch. He looked set to cruise home when he birdied the par-three 14th to go two ahead, but after Li spectacularly eagled the 15th from just two feet to draw level, Rose birdied the 16th to lead by one with two holes to go, only to three-putt the 17th.

He failed to take advantage of a three-putt bogey by Li at the 18th, however, bunkering his approach before lipping out from six feet for victory to card a 68 to Li's 71 and leave them tied on 17-under par.

Return

Returning to the 18th in sudden-death, Rose missed from 15 feet for birdie and watched Li three-putt again, knocking his 10-footer for victory three feet past before missing the return.

"I do have to spare a thought for Haotong," said Rose, who can't catch leader Francesco Molinari in the Race to Dubai, despite moving up to third behind Tommy Fleetwood after pocketing €1.02 million.

Shane Lowry, who finished six shots behind Rose, picked up €87,000 for tied 14th. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
Shane Lowry, who finished six shots behind Rose, picked up €87,000 for tied 14th. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

"Tough way to finish, that. He's hit a positive putt to try and win, and that green, like I said, is very tough."

Rose was doubly determined to win the play-off and complete his first successful title defence, having lost the PGA Tour's BMW Championship to Keegan Bradley in a play-off when going to world No 1 for the first time.

There was no happy ending for three-time Major winner Harrington, who looked set to qualify by right for this week's Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City when he went to the turn in three-under.

However, knowing he needed a good finish to make it to Sun City on merit, he made a triple bogey seven after two visits to the water at the 10th, and then followed a birdie at the 12th with a nervy bogey-bogey finish that included a visit to the water at the 18th.

"I've got to say, and I am being honest about this, but I'd hate to be a tour pro playing for his card every day," confessed Harrington, who shot 72 to tie for 35th on six-under (€40,949) before jetting off to play on an invitation in Sun City. "It's so annoying. I don't mind playing to win a tournament, but it's really hard to play when you are trying not to make a mistake.

"It's just horrible, it felt horrible. I played great for three rounds, and today I putted well and scrambled great, but you never would want to be hanging on to a position, as it's not an easy thing to do, to be defending.

Shane Lowry finished tied for 14th on 11-under par after a closing 68, picking up €87,851. And while he wasn't at his best off the tee, he is upbeat about this week's Nedbank Golf Challenge and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

"It's an alright week considering how I feel like I played," said Lowry, who moves up to 41st in the Race to Dubai.

"Mentally I was very good. I kept going today when it was tough. I didn't play the par-fives well, I wasn't comfortable off the tee and didn't hole many putts, and I still got a top 15, so it's another few Race to Dubai points closer towards my target."

Paul Dunne tied for 18th, one stroke behind Lowry on 10-under after a 70.

"I just kept hitting it to 20 feet, didn't make any putts all day," said Dunne, who won €76,186 and saw signs of improvement in his game.

On the USPGA Tour, Graeme McDowell closed with a one-under 70 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to finish tied 40th.

Meanwhile, Tramore's Robin Dawson, Ardglass Cormac Sharvin and Mount Juliet's Gavin Moynihan are poised to progress as they head into the final round at the Second Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School in Spain today.

Dawson shot a four-under 68 at El Encin in Madrid to share fifth place on 12-under with Sharvin a shot further back in tied 10th after a stunning, eight-under 64. Moynihan, meanwhile, is tied 16th at Desert Springs in Almeria after a 67.

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