After 'rubbish' 2020, Casey makes winning return in Dubai

Dubai (AFP) –


Paul Casey made a triumphant return to the European Tour on Sunday after 14 months, when he won the Dubai Desert Classic by four shots on a difficult scoring day.

The 43-year-old Englishman navigated the rock-hard greens of Emirates Golf Club in two-under-par 70 in the final round to finish on 17-under par for the tournament.

It was Casey's 15th title on the European Tour, but the first since the 2019 European Open which was also his last tournament victory anywhere.

Despite tying for second in the PGA Championship, he did not win a tournament last season and dropped out of the world top 20.

Sunday's victory should lift him from 27 to 14 when the updated rankings are released on Monday.

"We are still in the middle of a pandemic, but last year, like it was for a lot of people, was rubbish," Casey said.

"I didn't enjoy last year and I didn't enjoy my golf in 2020. I mean, I played well one week but that was about it. So this is really cool."

"I'm so over the moon."

South African Brandon Stone hit 72 to finish second at 13-under.

Scotland's Robert MacIntyre bled four successive bogeys around the turn and finished on 74 for third place at 12-under par 276.

England's Laurie Canter closed his 72 with back-to-back birdies to tie for the fourth at 10-under par with Finland's Kalle Samooja.

Europe's Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington and 2017 champion Sergio Garcia of Spain ended tied in sixth at nine-under par.

Casey started the day one shot ahead. He made a birdie on the par-5 third hole, and then chipped-in from a horrible lie on the par-3 fourth to gain another shot.

Even though he made three bogeys after that as the firm and fast greens played havoc with the scores, he also made three birdies, including one on the last hole.

"It was the trickiest conditions all week," Casey said.

"I got off to a good start and I didn't look at the leaderboard. I was just trying to keep my nose clean."

Stone grabbed second with four birdies on his back nine.

"The front nine felt horrible...felt like I was doing a couple rounds with Mike Tyson," he said.

"The long walk from the ninth green to the 10th tee box kind of reset everything."

MacIntyre, who started the day in second, said he was disappointed with his round and dismissed the suggestion that it had been a learning experience.

"Not right now, I am not learning anything," MacIntyre said.

"But when I go away, I will learn a lot. But I felt like I gave one away today."

His third-place finish should lift him into the top-50 for the first time. If he stays there until late March, he would earn an invitation to the Masters

"It would be unbelievable to get into the top-50, but again, it's not done till the 25th of March and I have a lot to do. I just have to keep giving myself chances."

The European Tour moves to Saudi Arabia for the Saudi International next week.