By Matt Smith
DUBAI (Reuters) - Scotland's Stephen Gallacher struck a final round 72 to clinch the $2.5 million Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday as he overcame a nightmare start to become the first player to retain the coffee pot trophy.
Gallacher, whose Dubai win 12 months ago was his first title in nearly a decade, skittered four bogeys on the front nine holes, but clawed back four shots after the turn in a gritty display to end on 272.
Argentina's Emiliano Grillo (66) sunk a 60-foot eagle putt on the 18th for 273, while France's Romain Wattel (66) and Brooks Koepka (70) of the United States were tied on 274.
Gallacher, 39, began the day two shots clear of world number six Rory McIlroy and most of the 8,500 crowd must have anticipated a classic duel between the wily veteran and golf's great young hope.
But both players faltered on an overcast Majlis course, although that made for a thrilling finale as four different players - Gallacher, McIlroy, Koepka and Grillo - claimed outright leadership at some stage, while England's Robert Rock and Finland's Mikko Ilonen also shared top spot.
"I was quite fortunate no-one had run away with it," Gallacher said in a television interview.
"Then, after I holed the 11th I thought 'I'm level with seven to play' and I would have taken that at the start."
Gallacher, the world number 67, hit his first two drives into the rough to begin with successive bogeys and gift playing partner McIlroy the lead.
Yet the Northern Irishman failed to capitalise. He slugged his tee shot at the par-three seventh into the water for a bogey and dropped three further shots between holes 10 and 13, dooming his hopes of ending a 14-month title drought on the European Tour.
Gallacher, in contrast, was a man transformed after the turn, where a day earlier he had equalled a European Tour record with nine-under-par on the back nine.
"I think yesterday was the key - Saturday is when you're trying to get into contention, to get a lead," said Gallacher, who will now likely break into the world top 40 after his win.
He did not quite reach the same heights on Sunday, but a chip from the rough on the 17th provided a one-foot birdie chance he duly converted to reclaim the outright lead, making par on the 18th with a nerveless three-foot putt to seal the title.
(Reporting by Matt Smith; editing by Josh Reich)