Golf: Green manages to defeat his hero

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The Independent Online
If it would take too long to list the titles and achievements of Greg Norman, the world No.1, and Ian Woosnam, a former occupant of that perch, then Richard Green's resume is quickly stated: twice the New Caledonian Open champion and now winner of the Dubai Desert Classic.

Green, 26, beat his idol, Norman, and birthday boy Woosnam at the first hole of a sudden-death play-off at the Emirates course. In doing so he became the first left-hander to win on the European Tour since Bob Charles at the Swiss Open in 1974. As far as the young Australian is concerned, bring on Phil Mickelson.

"My aspirations are high and I think I can compete against the best, but today I have never felt anything like it before on a golf course," Green, whose wife Anita was caddieing for him, said.

"Greg has been my idol since I was young. I had not met him properly before I saw him in the scorer's hut and that made me nervous. To hole the putt to get into the play-off was special, but to beat guys like Greg and Ian in the play-off was unbelievable.''

Norman, seeking his third win in four events over three months, was the first to finish at the 16 under mark when he birdied the last. Woosnam, on his 39th birthday, needed only a par at the par-five 18th to win but put his third shot into the water. "All I had to do was hit a little sand wedge on to the green but I must have caught it heavy," Woosnam sighed.

Green chipped poorly, but then holed from 20 feet for a birdie and Woosnam holed his 10-footer for a bogey to also make the play-off. But at the 17th neither Norman or Woosnam could stop their approach shots on the green and after both putted up, Green holed out from 12 feet for the victory.

After two bogeys on his front nine, Jose Maria Olazabal responded with three birdies coming home to finish 12th in his comeback tournament. "I am no worse than when I came here which is good news," he said of the foot injury which kept him out of the game for 18 months. "In general I am pretty happy with the result of the week.''

After a week's rest, Olazabal will probably request a late invitation to the Portuguese Open, but has not made any firm plans. He can give no guarantee that he will be at the US Masters in April. "It would be nice to play at Augusta again but I have to take into consideration that the golf course is particularly hilly.''

As for his forlorn countryman Seve Ballesteros, who missed the cut on Friday, he was last seen heading for Munich and the same doctor who has treated Olazabal.

DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 272 R Green (Aus) 70 68 66 68; G Norman (Aus) 71 68 67 66; I Woosnam 69 67 67 69 (Green won play-off at first extra hole). 273 B Langer (Ger) 66 70 68 69. 275 T Gogele (Ger) 69 72 68 66. 276 P McGinley 69 71 67 69; R Burns 68 69 69 70; M Mackenzie 69 71 66 70; C Montgomerie 65 72 68 71. 278 A Cabrera (Arg) 73 72 70 63; C Rocca (It) 70 69 71 68. 279 P Price 70 73 69 67; R Chapman 69 71 70 69; J Van de Velde (Fr) 67 75 67 70; J M Olazabal (Sp) 69 74 65 71; J Haeggman (Swe) 72 71 65 71; K Eriksson (Swe) 68 71 67 73. 280 A Oldcorn 69 70 73 68; R Coles 69 70 69 72. 281 J Coceres (Arg) 70 73 69 69; M James 66 75 69 71; P-U Johansson (Swe) 69 73 68 71; D Hospital (Sp) 65 69 74 73; P Marksaeng (Thai) 68 71 68 74.