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Unknown Dutchman Stuns Ernie Els in Dubai

March 9, 2003

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ Robert-Jan Derksen, not even ranked among the top 3,000 players in golf, pulled off a stunning victory Sunday in the Dubai Desert Classic with a birdie on the 18th hole to defeat Ernie Els.

Derksen, a 29-year-old Dutchman who had never finished in the top 10 on the European tour, closed with a 7-under 65 and denied Els his fifth victory of the year.

``It’s the biggest shock of my life _ unbelievable,″ Derksen said.

He seized the lead with a 60-foot eagle putt on the 13th, and he held up under the pressure over the final holes. He laid up short of the water on the 18th, then pitched to 5 feet and made the birdie, walking off the green in tears.

``One guy comes out of the pack and beats you,″ Els said. ``He played well, so it is one of those things.″

Els made double bogey on No. 12 by hitting a poor chip and missing a 5-foot putt, dropping him two strokes behind.

He caught Derksen with birdies on the 13th and 15th, chipping in from some 40 feet to seemingly take control. But when Derksen birdied the 18th, the pressure was back on Els.

The Big Easy had bogeyed the par-5 18th twice this week. Needing a birdie to force a playoff, Els made sure he cleared the water with a 4-iron that ran though the green. His chip was 25 feet short, and his birdie putt missed badly.

``The golf course really played tough over the weekend and was completely different,″ Els said.

Derksen finished at 17-under 271 for his first victory, which came four months after his sixth trip to European tour qualifying school.

Els already has won twice in Hawaii on the PGA Tour and twice in Australia. He has been runner-up in his other 72-hole tournaments this year _ to the unheralded Derksen, and to Zhang Lian-Wei in the Singapore Masters.

Tiger Woods was supposed to play in the Dubai Desert Classic, but he withdrew because of safety concerns with prospects of a war against Iraq.

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