DUBAI // A rush of blood by Pontus Fredriksson, the Swedish expatriate, proved to be the defining moment of a gripping Dubai Golf Trophy battle between the nation's best golf professionals and their amateur counterparts yesterday.
With 31 of the 32 rubbers complete and the professionals holding the slenderest of 16-15 leads, the match came down to the anchor singles pairing of Fredriksson and Richard Sheridan, recently recruited to the professional staff at the Els Club. All square going down the long 16th hole, both players got into trouble but it was Fredriksson who recovered the better, chipping to four feet for what looked a safe par five.
When Sheridan missed his par putt from 12 feet away, the invitation was there for Fredriksson to sink his on his home Faldo course at Emirates Golf Club to go one up with two to play and take a significant stride towards bringing the match to what would have been an honourable conclusion. Facing his moment of glory, he clipped the ball far too hard and watched in dismay as it finished as far away as it had started on the other side of the hole.
He understandably erred on the side of caution in hitting the ensuing putt and left it on the lip to leave an astonished Sheridan with a tap-in bogey to regain a lead that he had held for much of the pivotal encounter. Fredriksson, 35, showed great character to win the last hole to earn a half point but knew that he needed to secure the whole point to tie the match. "I choked, big time," Fredriksson said before being embraced by colleagues and opponents on the conclusion of a two-day battle which began at Dubai Creek on Friday.
While Fredriksson was put in the spotlight after the 16-15 result - players from both teams formed a sizeable gallery for his moment of reckoning - the amateur team, captained by John Mills, realised their fate had been sealed in the afternoon foursomes on Friday. Collecting only 2 points from the eight on offer from that discipline, left them with the tallest of tasks in the 16 singles rubbers. As Mills said: "We new we had to take 9 points out of 15 [one match was declared a half as both players were unfit to play] to turn things round, but our guys put on a fantastic show and almost pulled it off. To win eight of those matches and half another was a stunning performance."
There was little indication of a tight finish, midway through the afternoon, however, as the professionals dominated the early rubbers. Needing six points to reach the total of 16 they required to retain the trophy, they got there when their eighth man out, Simon Payne, closed out Daniel Hendry, the exciting teenager, on the 17th green. The half point extra they required to transform the retention of the trophy as holders into a ninth victory from 11 stagings, proved elusive, though, and six professionals came down the home stretch empty handed before Sheridan, who qualified for this year's European Tour event at Abu Dhabi, inched them over the finishing line.