ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Jamie Donaldson won the Abu Dhabi Championship by 1 shot on Sunday for the biggest victory of his career, with Justin Rose narrowly missing a birdie putt on the 18th which would have forced a playoff.
Rose's eight-foot putt rimmed out of the hole, giving the Welshman his second European Tour victory after a final round 68 for an overall 14-under 274.
Rose (71) threw his club up in the air in frustration while Donaldson flashed a relieved smile. Rose shared second with Thorbjorn Olesen (69) of Denmark, who also failed to force a playoff on the 18th when his 15-foot birdie putt rolled past the hole. Olesen, playing with Rose, had putted first.
"Awesome," said Donaldson, sitting next to the tournament trophy. "It was a tough field, brutal golf course ... to sit here is quite surreal. "
It was fifth-ranked Rose's tournament to lose. The Englishman had a two-shot lead over Donaldson and Olesen and led all week, hitting greens and making timely putts. But he was shaky from the start on Sunday, scrambling early to save pars and then hitting errant drives on Nos. 5, 11 and 16 that led to bogeys, while finding it difficult to read the greens.
"It was definitely hard work today," Rose said. "You want to close out with a chance to win when you have it and (I) didn't do that today. But I didn't do a lot wrong either."
Rose's struggles opened the door for Donaldson as well as several other players including Olesen and David Howell of England.
Howell struck first. Trailing by four shots coming into Sunday, he ran off five birdies, including one on the 10th when his approach shot spun back toward the hole. He sank it for a one-shot lead over Rose and Donaldson but missed three putts within five feet to triple bogey No. 13. He never recovered.
"I felt good out there and the most annoying thing was I thought I hit a beautiful shot to the 13th. It just came up four or five yards short of where I thought it was going to go and it all went wrong from there," said Howell, who is ranked 258th after fighting injuries for several years.
Olesen also made an early run with a string of birdies to draw level with Rose, only to fall back when he hit a drive on the sixth into deep rough and had to take a drop when his second ended up in bush. He settled for a double-bogey, only to put himself back into contention with three birdies on the back nine including a clutch birdie putt on No. 17.
"I started out a little bit shaky, I hit a few bad shots on the second and third, but then came back strong," said the Dane, who could have broken into the top 50 with a win. "Unfortunately I got a bad lie in the rough and hit a bad shot which cost me a double bogey which put me a little bit behind."
The 47th-ranked Donaldson, who only won his first tournament last year in his 268th European Tour event, started off with a birdie and grabbed another on the ninth. He missed a 3-footer for birdie on the 10th but rebounded to collect a birdie on No. 11 for his first lead of the tournament. He gave himself some breathing room when he sank a 20-footer for birdie on the 14th and a 15-footer on the 15th.
After Rose hit a drive into the trees for a bogey on No. 16, followed by a missed 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th, it seemed Donaldson had secured the victory. But the Welshman didn't make it easy for himself. He missed a long birdie putt on the final hole and then a five-footer for par. He settled for a bogey and figured there would a playoff since he only led by one.
"It was annoying to finish like that," Donaldson said. "But you need a little luck sometimes in golf to win."
After struggling for years with a back injury, Donaldson began to break through in 2012, making the top 50 and finishing 19th in the Race To Dubai.
"Confidence is very high at the moment," Donaldson said. "After this win and after a great season last year, I certainly don't put any limits on where we can go from here ... My goal has always been very high, sometimes too high."