(Adds quotes, detail)
By Tony Jimenez
ABU DHABI, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Jamie Donaldson achieved the biggest victory of his career after edging out fellow Briton Justin Rose and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen on a thrilling final day at the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi Championship on Sunday.
Donaldson squeezed five birdies in a closing four-under-par 68 to finish 14-under on 274, one ahead of overnight leader Rose (71) and Olesen (69).
The Welshman almost let in his title rivals when he bogeyed the last hole after missing from five feet. But neither Rose nor Olesen, playing in the match behind, could birdie the 18th and the spectacular Falcon Trophy belonged to Donaldson.
“I got away with murder at the last hole there but I‘m very happy to be holding the trophy,” the 37-year-old told reporters at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club after clinching his second European Tour victory on his 268th appearance.
“This has been an awesome week. It was a tough field, a brutal golf course and to be sat here is quite surreal.”
Donaldson, who also won the Irish Open last year, birdied the first, ninth, 11th, 14th and 15th before dropping his only shot at the 18th.
He then had to endure a nerve-wracking time in the scorer’s hut as he watched Rose and Olesen play the final hole on television.
“I was ready to punch something - I wasn’t happy with myself at that point,” said Donaldson after collecting a cheque for 336,725 euros ($447,600).
“The chances were that one of them, if not both, would hole their putts. In my mind I just thought I would have to redeem myself in a playoff.”
Donaldson’s victory will lift him from 47th in the world rankings into the world’s top 30 and earns a slot in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio in August and at the WGC-Champions Tournament in China in October.
“I’ll play quite a few events in America this year now I would have thought so let’s see how we go in those,” he said.
”To win here is crazy. I played the pro-am at the start of the week and I thought this course was just too difficult.
“The wind was difficult at the start of the week and I said during the pro-am that if I could somehow get a top-10 finish this week it would be a miracle,” he laughed.
“You never know in this game, you really don‘t.”
Rose picked up four birdies in the final round but was let down by bogeys at the fifth, 11th and 16th.
He tossed his putter high in the air in anguish after seeing a 12-foot birdie putt lip out at the last.
“It was a shame that one didn’t go in because I really thought I hit the perfect putt,” said Rose.
”It reminded me of the putt at 18 against Phil Mickelson (in the Ryder Cup singles in September). The line was just outside the right edge and that’s exactly where I hit it but unfortunately this time the putt wouldn’t go in for me.
“Would I swap it? No, I wouldn‘t,” added Rose.
Playing partner Olesen also had to settle for a par at the closing hole after missing from 16 feet.
Portugal’s Ricardo Santos (68) finished fourth on 277.
Former European Ryder Cup player David Howell (71) led after a birdie at the 10th. But he collapsed with a bogey four at the 12th and a triple-bogey seven at the next after, remarkably, taking four putts from five feet.
”I played beautifully today,“ said Howell. ”It is a classic case of one bad hole.
“It was a disastrous effort on the green. I missed the first one from 2-1/2 feet downhill, there was an ounce of nerves on that one and I made a poor stroke, and the pressure then piles on.”
The Englishman eventually finished joint sixth on 279.
$1 = 0.7524 euros Editing by John Mehaffey