Some Rickie Fowler magic solidified his reputation as a great finisher as the American held off Thomas Pieters, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson to win in Abu Dhabi.
Rickie Fowler carried a two shot lead over Joost Luiten into the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, with Thomas Pieters a shot further back. The American further extended his advantage as he opened with two birdies. It looked as though the 27-year-old might cruise to victory until he suffered a setback at the par-3 7th.
He came up short of the green and ended in a waste area just beyond the water hazard. He splashed out but caught a rock under the ball and flew the green. He scrambled well to save a double bogey. But the mistake did little to dishearten Fowler as he bounced back with a moment of classic Rickie Fowler magic on the next hole. Short of the par-5 8th green in two, he faced a testing, long bunker shot for his third. But he played it perfectly, landing short and allowing the ball to release up to the cup, it rolled on beautifully and dropped for an eagle three.
Fowler kept his ship steady on the back nine with seven straight pars from the 10th. But, as he plodded along, Rory McIlroy came home in 31 and Henrik Stenson in 32 to pile on the pressure.
Then, just when he needed it, Fowler chipped in on the 17th hole for a birdie three and a two-stroke cushion with one to play. He took a strategic approach down the 18th, secured a par and a one stroke victory over Thomas Pieters who closed with a birdie four to claim second place on his own.
Jordan Spieth closed with a 68 to end the week in a tie for 5th. It was a good result for the World Number 1 given, he himself admitted, he didn’t have his best game for this tournament.
4 Talking points from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
1 – Fowler is just the second American to win the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, following Chris DiMarco in 2006. The victory has pushed Rickie up to Number 4 on the Official World Golf Ranking with only the new “big three” of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day ahead of him. The win follows Fowler’s success in the Scottish Open on the European Tour last July.
“I’d like to jump in and be a part of that crew and see if we can continue to win some Majors if I can jump in there,” he said.
“The goal right now with where my game’s at, the best it’s been this early in the season in my career, I’m working on getting ready for Augusta. And I’d like to have my shot at getting the Green Jacket there. The ultimate goal this year is to go win a Major and this is a step in the right direction for sure.”
New Rickie Fowler slow-mo swing sequence:
2 – It was another case of so near and yet so far for Rory McIlroy in this tournament. He’s been second four times and this year had to settle for a share of third. Although he finished strongly with a birdie on the 16th and a spectacular eagle on the 18th, he just couldn’t get enough putts to drop through the course of the week. He led the greens in regulation stats for the week but was down at 41st in putts per round. Still, the World Number 3 was keen to take the positives from the week.
“I feel my game is in good shape going into this run of golf I have coming up,” he said. “It’s a busy schedule going into The Masters.”
3 – It was an excellent week for Henrik Stenson as he made his return from knee surgery. This outing came just six weeks after he went under the knife. He is now taking a week off to rest it.
“The knee is holding up pretty good,” he said. “It’s been a challenge walking, as I said earlier in the week, and I’m not 100 per cent, so I’m taking that decision to skip Qatar, even though it’s a little sad. I’ve played every one since I came out on Tour in 2001.”
4 – Thomas Pieters of Belgium showed his class this week. The 6 foot 5 inch 23-year-old averaged over 310 yards from the tee during the week and he kept Fowler under pressure to the very end of the tournament. His closing round of 67 gave him solo second place and has seen him climb 30 places to 58th on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
Abu Dhabi GC, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Purse: €2,500,000, par 72
1 Rickie Fowler (USA) 70 68 65 69 272 €409,686
2 Thomas Pieters (Bel) 69 73 64 67 273 €273,124
T3 Rory McIlroy (NIR) 66 70 70 68 274 €138,392
T3 Henrik Stenson (Swe) 65 72 70 67 274 €138,392
T5 Byeong Hun An (Kor) 69 68 69 71 277 €71,613
T5 Alejandro Canizares (Esp) 71 71 66 69 277 €71,613
T5 Branden Grace (RSA) 66 74 66 71 277 €71,613
T5 Joost Luiten (Ned) 69 68 68 72 277 €71,613
T5 Marcel Siem (Ger) 72 68 70 67 277 €71,613
T5 Jordan Spieth (USA) 68 73 68 68 277 €71,613
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage