Tiger Woods' withdrawal made it possible for Robert-Jan Derksen to play in the Dubai Desert Classic. The real treat came Sunday, when the Dutchman stole the show from Ernie Els.
Derksen, the first alternate until Woods decided to skip Dubai for safety reasons, hit a delicate pitch to 5 feet for birdie on the 18th for 7-under 65 and a one-stroke victory over Els.
"It's the biggest shock of my life _ unbelievable," Derksen said.
He was in tears as he left the 18th green, though Els still had a chance to catch him. Derksen was not ranked among the top 3,000 in the world entering the tournament. He never had finished in the top 10 at a European PGA Tour event and only four months ago made it through qualifying school for the sixth time.
He looked like a world beater Sunday, taking the lead with a 60-foot eagle putt on the 13th and playing error-free when the pressure mounted over the closing holes.
"Before this year, I never thought I could win," Derksen said. "But I started believing in myself a bit more this year. I needed a bit of luck, but that is what I got today."
Derksen finished 17-under 271 and earned about $300,000. Els lost control of the tournament with a poor chip that led to double bogey on No. 12. He had a chance to force a playoff with birdie on the 18th, a hole that had given him trouble in previous rounds.
Els easily cleared the water with his 3-iron, but it ran through the green and his chip stopped 25 feet short of the hole. His birdie putt missed badly.
"I couldn't hit two better shots than the two into the 18th," said Els, who closed with 69. "But what can you do? One guy comes out of the pack and beats you. He played well, so it's one of those things."
Derksen owes a bit of gratitude to Woods. Woods was supposed to receive $2-million to play in Dubai, but decided to stay home because of the looming war against Iraq, about 900 miles from Dubai. That got Derksen in the field, and the Dutchman took it from there.
Derksen gets a two-year exemption on the European Tour _ and no more waiting around as an alternate.
MASTERCARD CLASSIC: David Eger birdied three of the last four holes to win his first Champions Tour title by a stroke. Eger, seventh after Saturday, shot 7-under 65 to finish 12 under in Mexico City.
"It still hasn't sunk in," said Eger, who is third in the season standings with 300 points. "I just tried to take it one ball at a time and didn't think about winning until I took my ball out of the 18th hole."
Defending champion Bruce Lietzke stayed with Eger until bogeying the 15th, which dropped him to a four-way tie for second with Hale Irwin, Eamonn Darcy and Tom Jenkins.
"I was very disappointed," Lietzke said. "At the beginning of the day, I thought the tournament was mine. I kept on messing up the putts at 10 to 12 feet."