Karlsson wins Dubai Championship as Poulter penalized in sudden death

robert karlsson, martin kaymer
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Robret Karlsson (red shirt) put together two great weekend rounds to win the European Tour's season-ending event, while Martin Kaymer (blue shirt) captured the seasonlong money title.
By
Michael Casey
Associated Press

Series:

Sweden’s Robert Karlsson won the European Tour’s season-ending Dubai World Championship Sunday, beating third-round leader Ian Poulter in a two-way playoff after a bizarre blunder by the Englishman on the final hole.

Karlsson calmly rolled in a birdie putt on the second playoff hole after Poulter had been given a one-stroke penalty for dropping his ball on his marker on the green, causing it to flip over and move from its original position.

“The coin was one way and the next minute facing the other way,” Poulter said. “It’s pitched right on the front and flipped over. If it pitches in the middle, the coin doesn’t move and it’s fine. But it’s pitched on the front and it’s flipped over.”

Poulter spotted his error and reported it to the match referee, whose ruling left him with a long putt for par instead of a birdie. The putt came up a foot short, taking all the pressure off the Swede as he then had two shots to clinch the victory in the season-ending $7.5 million tournament.

The 41-year-old Karlsson needed just one shot to secure his second European Tour victory this year and the 11th tour victory of his career. The former top-ranked European said this was one of the biggest victories of his long career and one of the most lucrative. He earned $1.25 million with the win.

“This must be the highest one I would think if you just look on the quality of the field that’s been here, world No. 1, world No. 3 or 4 or whatever it is,” he said. “It’s a fantastic field, and obviously when we have all of the best players in Europe together, the way it looks now, it’s going to be a great field so to win here is fantastic.”

Karlsson, who was made aware of the penalty before Poulter putted, admitted he would have rather not won by default.

“These things happen in golf. It’s not the way you want to win,” he said. “The rules are there for a reason but some of them can be tough.”

The winning putt was Karlsson’s third straight birdie on the 18th green, having caught up to Poulter on his last hole in regulation when his approach shot landed within a few feet of the pin. He rolled that in to close with a 5-under 67 and a 14-under total of 274.

Poulter then had a birdie putt for the victory at the 18th but missed it just wide to force the playoff, where both players birdied the first hole.

“I felt I hit a very good putt,” he said of the near-miss at the 18th. “Six inches short of the hole, I would have probably put my house on it, but it slows down and takes a little bit of grain and misses. Obviously a little disappointed, and it was a shame it’s just ended the way it has. Robert has hit a good third shot, and you know what, he stepped up and holed the putts. So every credit.”

Karlsson led after the first round but followed it up with a 75 on Friday to seemingly fall out of contention. He recovered with consecutive rounds of 67, and started Sunday with consecutive birdies. His second shot on the par-4 third then landed on the green and rolled in for an eagle.

He had two more birdies on the back nine before a lovely approach shot almost hit the pin on the 18th, spun back and landed within a few feet of the hole.

The No. 1-ranked Lee Westwood came up a shot short and finished in a tie for third with Spain’s Alvaro Quiros after his approach shot to the 18th green landed in the water and he had to scramble to save par. Quiros missed an eagle putt on the 18th that would have pulled him into the lead while Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy shot an eagle on the 18th to pull within two shots of the lead. He finished in fifth.

Germany’s Martin Kaymer finished in disappointing tie for 13th but still beat out Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell for the European money title after tying him at 6 under for the tournament.

Poulter came into the final round seemingly in control, with a two-shot lead over Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and fellow Englishman Ross Fisher. He also had momentum on his side after winning last week’s UBS Hong Kong Open.

He struggled on the first nine with a bogey and only one birdie but settled down on the back nine as the 34-year-old has done all week with consecutive birdies and two pressure par putts on the 16th and 17th holes. But with the title on the line, he couldn’t sink a birdie putt on the 18th and then lost the playoff.

Despite his disappointing finish, Poulter said the tournament provided a fitting end to the season with some of the best in Europe in the mix almost until the end.

“It was good. Looking at the board all the way around, Robert got off to an incredible start, birdie, birdie, eagle. Westy made a late charge. It was good fun the whole way around,” Poulter said. “I felt good, hit lots of good golf shots. I made a couple of key up and downs at the right time. But, you know what, you’re left walking away disappointed.”