LUCAS Herbert won his maiden European Tour title with a play-off victory over Christiaan Bezuidenhout on a dramatic final day at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The duo entered the final day six shots off the lead but with strong winds and showers at Emirates Golf Club, the leaderboard was blown wide open.
Lucas Herbert, who survived a trip to the water 18 before winning at the second extra hole, said: “The last ten minutes feel like I’ve been dreaming.
“It’s so weird. It’s awesome. It’s just the best thing ever. It is so good. We’ve got a bottle of Scotch at home to celebrate, so I can’t wait to get into that with the boys.
“Last week, I was probably like 20th going into the weekend, and probably like for the 10th time in the last 12 months seemed to just back it out and finish at the back of the field.
“We got really frustrated, so put in some really good tactics this week with my mental coach, Jamie Glazier, trying to be positive and a lot of positive stuff.
“It’s so cliché but it works so much. I felt so confident out there and just felt like good golf was going to come.
“I spoke to him just before the play-off, and we talked about the fact that I hit some really poor shots out there today.
“Obviously the second shot on the first play-off hole, probably not one of my best, but you know, you go back and watch any sort of winners, final nine holes, final round, play-off holes, it’s never a perfect scenario.
“Everyone always hits bad shots, and everyone will probably forget about that now that I’ve just gotten that up-and-down and won a tournament.”
Plenty of people have admired Herbert’s talents, so a maiden win was always likely to be a question of when, not if.
So for it to happen after a tumultus few months for his native Australia, and on Australia day itself, proved to be bitter sweet for the Aussie, who is now exempt on the European Tour until the end of the 2022 season.
Lucas Herbert said: “I know everyone back home is going to be still up, and obviously there’s some pretty awful stuff happening right now in Australia with the fires.”
And it meant yet another young Aussie has joined the winners’ circle after Cameron Smith claimed the Sony Open in Hawaii, on the PGA Tour, two weeks ago.
Herbert added: “Cam Smith sort of said it a couple weeks ago when he won, and I’d like to say the same thing.
“Everyone around the world is behind us and hopefully we can keep fighting harder than what I did on the first play-off hole.
“That’s nothing compared to the firefighters and volunteers putting out the fires. Sending all my love back home and hope everyone is well, and thanks for the support.”
Bezuidenhout and Herbert both fired brilliant rounds of 68 to get to nine-under par, with the South African finding water after laying up on the last.
The winner of last year’s Andalucia Masters – at Spain’s equally tough Valderrama – made a clutch putt for bogey, while Herbert birdied the 17th and 18th to get into the play-off, having taken on the water at the daunting last to make his birdie four.
This time it was the Australian who found the water with his second on the first play-off hole before saving par thanks to a stunning shot from the drop zone to take it back to the tee.
His second shot next time around could not have been more different, as he got within 20 feet and a two-putt birdie handed him the title, and second position in the Race to Dubai Rankings.
Bezuidenhout has overcome his own battles – having been banned for taking a banned substance as an amateur prescribed to help him overcome a serious stammer and nervousness problem.
He was putting a positive face on the disappointment of his first play-off defeat.
“I was hitting something great putts. Made great saves coming in,” said Bezuidenhout.
“Made a great up-and-down on 14 and 15 to keep myself going. I just think we played in the tougher conditions.
“Those last five holes played quite brutal. Happy to finish off the way I did and make the save.
Reflecting on the trip to the water in regulation, he added: “I laid it up to my perfect yardage, 78 to the flag.
“The first shot just came out a little bit right – didn’t fly the yardage, just spun back.
“If it landed on the green, it was quite firm, and it landed just in the fringe and spun back into the water. With the spin, it was always going to be in the water.
“Me and my coach Grant have been doing work which I believe in.
“I believe we’re doing the right things and we’re working towards the right stuff, and nice to see all the hard work’s paying off, and paying off on the course, especially in big tournaments like this.”
Spaniard Adri Arnaus, South African Dean Burmerster and Hertfordshire’s Tom Lewis finished at seven-under – a shot clear of American Kurt Kitayama and China’s Wu Ashun.
•To see the final results click here.