x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Jake Shepherd holds his nerve to take Tour Championship

Five-shot lead he blew in Ras Al Khaimah was at the forefront of his mind.

Jake Shepherd was victorious in Al Ain.
Jake Shepherd was victorious in Al Ain.

Al Ain // Jake Shepherd acknowledge the five-shot lead he blew in Ras Al Khaimah a fornight ago was at the forefront of his mind as he nervously lined up the putt which won him the Mena Tour Championship in Al Ain yesterday.

The Englishman was presented with a six-footer on the first play-off hole to clinch a birdie, the Tour Championship and top spot in the order of merit. He nailed it to defeat Sean McNamara but not before a few anxious moments.

"I was shaking like a leaf," Shepherd said. "The nerves were shooting right through me. You could tell by my reaction at the end how happy and relieved I was."

The winner's cheque of US$13,500 (Dh49,500) took his Mena Tour total to $17,749 and saw him finish at the summit of the order of merit. Peter Richardson, who won the Sheikh Maktoum Dubai Open last week, was second with McNamara, the American, in third. All three receive automatic entry to the Dubai Desert Classic in February.

"I can't believe I've finished top of the merit, which is a real bonus," Richardson. "I thought I would need to win today to get to the Classic and I've achieved that. It's an amazing feeling and I can't take it in."

Shepherd said he only joined the tour because Zane Scotland, who won the first event at Saadiyat, told him about it on Twitter. But he was probably wishing he had not after a spectacular collapse cost him the event in Ras Al Khaimah.

"I was looking for a bit of redemption out there for what happened to me and the experience was a genuine benefit," Shepherd said.

Richardson, who won in Dubai, had to settle for second place in the order of merit.

"I have played well from start to finish and have felt good just being here," Richardson said. "I hope this is the start of really positive things for me."

McNamara finished second yesterday and third place overall.

"Jake had the advantage on me because the extra hole was the par-five 18th because he's a much longer hitter than I am," McNamara said. "He got on the green in two and I was always struggling. However, the Desert Classic not a bad consolation. I came here to get into that and I have achieved my goal. It's been a terrific four weeks. This is my first time in the UAE and I'm glad I'm coming back."

There was a three-way tie for third place yesterday with Younes El Hassani (Morocco), Gary Birch Jnr (England) and Aadil Jehangir (Pakistan) who all finished with a total of nine-under.


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