Donaldson rallies for Abu Dhabi victory
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Don’t call Jamie Donaldson a journeyman anymore. Victory in the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship took care of that tag for good.
The Welshman needed 254 tournaments and 11 years to get his hands on his first European Tour trophy. It only took him another 14 tournaments and six months to lift his second.
Donaldson emerged as winner in Abu Dhabi after a 4-under 68 Sunday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club gave him a 14-under total of 274. That proved good enough for a one-shot win over Justin Rose and Thorbjorn Olesen.
Donaldson even had the luxury of a bogey at the par-5 18th. He missed a 4-foot par putt there after hitting his tee shot into the left rough. All he could do after that that was stand and watch as first Olesen missed from 17 feet for birdie, and then Rose missed from 11 feet for his own birdie.
“I got away with murder there at the last,” Donaldson said. “I thought one of them would make a birdie and I’d be in a playoff.”
Donaldson, 37, arrived in Abu Dhabi and thought he had no chance of getting into contention. No wonder. He had never cracked the top 10 in six previous appearances, with a T-11 in 2011 his best finish.
“It’s a funny old game," he said. "I played in the pro-am and found the course difficult. I thought if I could get a good week on this course I’d be chuffed (happy). You never know with this game. I was stood here on Thursday thinking I didn’t have a chance, and here I am standing with the trophy.
“I looked at a few leaderboards early on. But towards the end, I had my head down and started to play as aggressively as I could. And it came off. “
Not too long ago many people thought Donaldson would never lift a European Tour trophy, nevermind two as prestigious as now reside in his trophy cabinet. Until his surprise victory at Royal Portrush last year, the Welshman epitomized the word journeyman. He had never finished higher than 38th on the money list. He spent two seasons on the European Challenge Tour, winning three times.
“It’s pretty surreal, really,” Donaldson said when he got the trophy. “I had at four years in the wilderness.”
The Irish Open opened a few doors. One special one: the gates to Augusta National. Donaldson finished inside the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking last year to earn his ticket to the Masters. He will go there as at least a double European Tour winner.
One thing’s for sure: He won’t turn up at Augusta as a journeyman.