Justin Harding earns 1st Euro Tour victory in Qatar Masters

DOHA, QATAR - MARCH 10: Justin Harding of South Africa holds the winners trophy after winning the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club on March 10, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) Warren Little/Getty Images

Justin Harding earns 1st Euro Tour victory in Qatar Masters

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Justin Harding earns 1st Euro Tour victory in Qatar Masters

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Justin Harding has a habit of playing golf well on Sunday. He did it again in Qatar to earn his first European Tour victory.

The South African returned a 6-under 66 in the final round of the $1.75 million Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club to post a 13-under-par 275 for a two-shot victory over nine players.

He earned a check for $291,660.

Harding began the final round three shots off Oliver Wilson’s lead, but produced his usual Sunday form. Harding, 33, has only failed to break 70 once on a Sunday in six opportunities on the 2019 European Tour. That was a 71 in the Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open. He rebounded from that score with consecutive 63s in Dubai and Saudi Arabia. He’s averaging 66.5 on Sunday this season.

Harding started his final round 40 minutes before the leaders, and faced a long wait to see if he’d won his maiden European Tour title after two victories on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa.

“It was nerve wracking,” he said. “It’s a situation I haven’t really been in. I think my biggest deficit coming from behind is one shot. And I was in the final group or second to last. To have to sit and wait around was, well I didn’t enjoy it.”

Harding was playing on a reduced schedule this year as a category 18 player, with category 17 and lower players having full status. Victory earns him a full card.

“It means I get to get into the events I want to get into. My schedule changes. I no longer have to sit and wait and rely on last minute chances. I’m looking forward to playing some bigger events and keeping the form going.”

Wilson was also looking for full European Tour status. He’s also a category 18 player competing in low budget events. The 38 year old just couldn’t get anything going in the final round after three days of peerless play.

The Augusta (Ga.) State grad Wilson only made one bogey over the first three rounds. He made three in the final round. A birdie on the par-5 final hole gave him a 1-under 71 and a share of second.

Wilson, who played in 2008 Ryder Cup, picked up a check for $77,265. He began the tournament 45th on the money list, and needs to finish inside the top 110 at season’s end to earn a card for next year’s European Tour. He’ll struggle to do that playing in bottom of the food chain tournaments. He travels to this week’s $1.2 million Kenya Open hoping to emulate Harding and get his career back on track.

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