LITTLE-KNOWN 22 year old Frenchman Gary Stal overturned an eight shot deficit to deny Martin Kaymer and claim an unlikely maiden European Tour title at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the weekend.
Stal, who was 357th in the world golf rankings before the tournament, closed with a brilliant 7-under 65 to finish on 19-under, a stroke ahead of Rory McIlroy (66).
Kaymer led by six shots overnight and by ten after a fast start with three birdies on the first four holes but imploded with a bogey on the 6th followed by a double on the 9th and a seven on the par-four 13th.
The US Open winner finished a little shell-shocked with a 3-over 75 alone in third place on 17-under.
Stal, a two-time winner on the secondary Challenge Tour, was stoked.
“It’s really crazy and I’m very happy to win this tournament,” he said. “This morning, I was thinking about second place, I didn’t think about first place.”
“My dad and my mother, they made it possible to be a good golfer, and I just applicate my sport every day,” he added.
“I thought about all the people that were looking at me. I thought about my mother, Christine, who died in May while I was playing Wentworth – she passed away while I was playing, and I thought about her a lot, obviously.
“When I saw my name on the leaderboard, I started thinking, well, don’t get excited, but I’m very happy obviously. It’s an incredible feeling.
“For the four days, my attitude has stayed the same. I’ve told myself at the beginning of the tournament that I wouldn’t get upset, and it paid off. I thought if I could putt well, if I could play shot by shot, it would pay dividends. Therefore, I just kept the same way, the same attitude.”
Three-time winner Kaymer had difficulty explaining his day.
“I don’t really know how to put it into words,” he said. “It was very, very surprising today.
“I started off well and hit a couple of bad tee shots and cost me double-bogey and a triple-bogey.
“Twice I missed the grass and I was in a bush – I had to drop it in the sand.”
McIlroy, who struggled with the putter in his third round 73, made his move with a hat-trick of birdies around the turn after enlisting caddie JP Fitzgerald’s help on the greens.
“Once I started getting JP to read putts, it was a lot better,” said McIlroy, who has now finished the event as runner up for the third time.
“I started off pretty slowly again and then we just sort of figured out we would try and read them together, and it helped. It was nice to finally get it going, but just that little stretch yesterday and then early on today sort of cost me the tournament.”
Australia’s best was Richard Green (71) on 10-under tied for 26th with Scott Hend (69) and Marcus Fraser on 9-under at T31.
The European Tour moves on to the Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club this week.
Rory McIlroy’s Hole in One: Video
McIlroy scored his – surprisingly – first ever hole in one as a professional golfer during the second round.
“It was a perfect number, straight downwind 177 yards, and it took a nice little hop to the right, so obviously the beers are on me tonight,” McIlroy said. “It wasn’t one of my goals for the year but it’s a nice little bonus.”European Tour Leaderboard