Victorian Lucas Herbert has bounced back from “the worst shot I’ve ever hit in my life” to record his maiden European Tour victory and in so doing share a piece of history with four-time Major champion Rory McIlroy.
In brutally difficult conditions at Emirates Golf Club, Herbert rose from outside the top 10 at the start of the final round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic to set the clubhouse lead at 9-under par courtesy of a 4-under 68, equal to the best round of the day.
As the likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry and Eddie Pepperell all shot well over par, the only other player to shoot 68 was South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who let an opportunity to win in regulation slip through his fingers.
Standing on the tee box of the 72nd hole at 10-under, Bezuidenhout’s third shot spun back into the water fronting the 18th green and he was unable to get up-and-down for par, he and Herbert sent back to the 18th tee to duke it out.
It was there that Herbert hit his second shot way right into the water, prompting the proclamation of, “Oh my god. That may be the worst shot I’ve ever hit in my life.”
Thankfully, the 24-year-old followed it up with one of his best.
A wedge from the drop zone to two feet enabled Herbert to save par and extend the playoff to a second hole where a thumping tee shot allowed him to hit the par-5 green in two, a two-putt birdie edging Bezuidenhout’s par for an extraordinary breakthrough win.
“I know Rory won this start for his first European Tour win, so we are both in that club. That’s a pretty cool club to be a part of, too,” Herbert said when told of the names of past champions of the Dubai Desert Classic.
“I finished top-10 quite a few times and that was a pretty cool rush but to win is something else.
“It’s just such a good feeling. All of the bad times and all of the hard times and all the missed cuts, they made up for that feeling on the 18th green there when we won.”
With an Australian flag draped over the edge of the grandstand fronting the 18th green, Herbert’s win on Australia Day took on even greater significance given the bushfire crisis that has gripped must of the eastern seaboard.
Although he has not been affected personally, Herbert hoped that his victory – like Cameron Smith’s at the Sony Open two weeks ago – might bring a sense of joy to some who have been doing it tough.
“Everything that’s gone on back home, if I can a little bit of joy to the guys who are struggling back there, yeah, it’s real special,” said Herbert, the second Australian winner of the Dubai Desert Classic along with fellow Victorian Richard Green (1997).
“None of my family or friends have lost anything, but I think the wildlife’s been the biggest thing affected.
“Just surprising the number of deaths that are with wildlife. You look online with social media and see the donations that are being made, like the things that celebrities and sports stars are putting up for auction, it’s phenomenal. They are getting behind everyone so much.
“There’s a big sense of community within Australia that we are going to fight these fires and get through them.”
With just one top-10 finish since he was tied for seventh at the Emirates Golf Club 12 months ago, Herbert had periods through 2019 where he wanted to quit the game completely.
He surprised many when he fought through a hand injury to share the lead after the opening round of the Australian PGA Championship prior to Christmas but faded to finish tied for 64th.
Now exempt on the European Tour through until the end of the 2022 season, Herbert admitted that the magnitude of the win will take time to hit home, posting a photo on Instagram with the caption, “Someone wake me up!?”
“These are questions that I have not even thought about,” Herbert said when asked how the win would affect his year and career moving forward.
“I mean, goal early in the year was to play well, try and get myself into bigger events. Try and get myself into WGC events and majors.
“I haven’t even thought about what this is going to do, but the bigger events we can get into, the better.
“Hopefully I’m looking forward to try to play in those, and you know, win again. That would be great.
“It was a pretty good field, so I wouldn’t mind doing it again.”
Omega Dubai Desert Classic
Emirates GC, Dubai, UAE
1 Lucas Herbert 69-71-71-68—279 €490,323
T30 Ryan Fox 76-70-66-76—288 €25,742
T58 Jason Scrivener 77-69-73-76—295 €7,796
MC Wade Ormsby 74-74—148
MC Daniel Gaunt 78-72—150
MC Scott Hend 73-79—152