Dubai, United Arab Emirates (SportsNetwork.com) - After a tough front nine, Stephen Gallacher responded with four birdies on the back nine Sunday to rally and win the Dubai Desert Classic.
Gallacher closed with an even-par 72 to end the tournament at 16-under-par 272. The Scotsman became the first player in event history to successfully defend his title.
The 39-year-old joined Ernie Els and Tiger Woods as the only multiple winners of this tournament.
"I'm delighted. I think it took everything I had to make that comeback," Gallacher admitted. "Like Saturday, I just tried to stay patient. I was quite fortunate that no one was running away with it."
Emiliano Grillo made a long eagle putt on the 18th to post 6-under 66 and take second at minus-15 at Emirates Golf Club.
Romain Wattel fired a 66 of his own to grab a share of third at 14-under 274. He was joined there by Brooks Koepka (70).
Mikko Ilonen had the low round of the day with an 8-under 64. He was alone in the lead briefly, but his total of 13-under 275 didn't hold up. Ilonen was joined in fifth place Robert Rock (70), Steve Webster (70) and Thorbjorn Olesen (71).
Rory McIlroy stumbled to a 2-over 74 to slide into a share of ninth at minus-12. McIlroy was 2-over through 10 holes. He got one shot back with a birdie on the 11th, but bogeys at 12 and 13 dropped him from contention.
Woods birdied the final three holes for a 1-under 71. That left him tied for 41st at 6-under 282. The world No. 1 had eight pars and a bogey on the front nine.
Around the turn, he birdied the par-5 10th for the third time this week. After stumbling to bogeys at 14 and 15, Woods poured in three consecutive birdies to close out his round.
Gallacher was 12-under at the turn after four bogeys in his first eight holes, and he trailed Koepka by two. Koepka found sand off the tee on the par-3 11th and that led to a bogey.
That opened with door for Gallacher, who drained a 20-footer for birdie on the 11th to gain a piece of the lead. That birdie moved him alongside Koepka, Ilonen and McIlroy.
After Rock made it a five-way tie for the lead, Gallacher answered with a 2- putt birdie on the par-5 13th, a hole which he played in 5-under par for the week. As he parred the next two holes, Gallacher was joined at 14-under by Wattel, who birdied the 17th and 18th for his 66.
While Gallacher played the 16th, Grillo poured in an eagle effort of some 65 feet on the par-5 18th to briefly grab the lead at 15-under. Grillo's second shot at the home hole ricocheted off the hospitality tents behind the green.
Gallacher answered with an 8-foot birdie putt on 16 to tie Grillo, then got up and down for birdie on the short par-4 17th to move one clear at minus-16. He nearly holed his third at the 18th, but settled for a par as his ball spun back to the front fringe after landing past the pin.
"Yesterday was the key. To go 10-under for 10 holes and get the lead was big," said Gallacher, who will move inside the world top 40 with this win. "My goal this year was get inside the top 50 and get into the majors and World Golf Championships. I knew a win would do it, so this is sweet."
NOTES: Gallacher earned 303,268 euros for the win ... This was the 25th playing of this event ... The European Tour heads back to South Africa next week for the Joburg Open, where Richard Sterne rolled to a seven-shot win last year.