Tommy Fleetwood wins the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, successfully defending the title he won 12 months ago
European number one Tommy Fleetwood produced a remarkable back-nine 30 to overhaul fellow Englishman Ross Fisher and successfully defend the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship that he won 12 months ago.
It was another thrilling day in the desert where Fisher looked set to win his first tournament since the Tshwane Open in 2014, but he could do nothing to stop Fleetwood’s inspired charge.
After Fisher eagled the par-5 2nd from 50 foot and made further gains at 4 and 7, he left the field playing catch up with Rory McIlroy looking like the main man capable of catching him – which would have been some story itself given the Ulsterman’s three-month absence recovering from an injury.
But after a Fisher bogey on the par-5 10th, Fleetwood emerged as the danger as his putter and round caught fire on the back nine with birdies at 10, 12, and 13 before he sank two more from distance at 15 and 16 and then birdied the last.
It all added up to a seven-under par 65 and left Fisher needing an eagle at the par-5 18th to force a playoff, but his chip for a three failed to trouble the hole and gave Fleetwood, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Friday, win number four on the European Tour.
“I’ve put in a lot of work, I wanted to prepare for this year like I didn’t win the Race to Dubai,” Fleetwood told Sky Sports Golf.
“It was important to come out and make sure I’m hungry.
“My best golf is getting better and better and my worst golf is getting better as well. I just had the lines going really well.”
Elsewhere, world number one Dustin Johnson made good use of a rare outing on the European Tour, the American closing with a 70 to finish eight shots back in a share of ninth.
Last week’s BMW SA Open Chris Paisley enjoyed another fantastic week, finishing fifth and completing a top five which included four Englishman.
Matthew Fitzpatrick was one of those. The Sheffield man looked in fine form as he closed with a 69 to finish just four shots back alongside McIlroy.
Meanwhile, overnight leader Thomas Pieters wasn’t quite at his best on Sunday, the Belgian shooting a 72 on a day when only birdies were good enough.
3 talking points from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA
1 – Rory McIlroy is back. After a lengthy absence through injury, the Ulsterman has been powerless as a number of players from across the pond have been busy filling up their trophy cabinets and dominating the headlines in recent months.
However, the former world number one, who has four Majors to his name, produced an impressive display in Abu Dhabi, firing a warning to his rivals that he’ll once again be a force to be reckoned with in 2018.
Rounds of 69, 66, 65 and 70 were not enough for a comeback win, but he looked fit and ready to add to his Major haul this year.
2 – Much has been said of how strong America’s Ryder Cup side is looking on paper ahead of the biennial contest in Paris this year, but if the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is anything to go by the Europeans could have a number of exciting talents of their own lining up in France.
September may be a way off but the likes of Thomas Pieters, Thomas Detry and Matt Fitzpatrick, to name but a few, look to have big seasons ahead of them. Ryder Cup aside, there is an exciting crop of players coming through in Europe who will provide some fireworks in the Race to Dubai this year.
3 – Ross Fisher just needs a win. The Englishman will be bitterly disappointed with failing to close out the tournament, but it was some back nine from Fleetwood that denied him a first win in four years. In truth, there was very little that he did wrong.
Ross Fisher shares his thoughts on Twitter.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Fisher was one of England’s brightest talents before a slide in form saw him overtaken by a number of his countrymen. But the big-hitter now looks to be a winner in waiting once again and will surely end his baron spell this year.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA
Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Purse: €3,000,000 Par: 72
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage.
1 Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 66 68 67 65 266 €408,597
2 Ross Fisher (Eng) 67 67 65 69 268 €272,395
T3 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 68 70 63 69 270 €138,024
T3 Rory McIlroy (NIR)69 66 65 70 270 €138,024
T5 Chris Paisley (Eng) 69 67 66 69 271 €94,876
T5 Thomas Pieters (Bel) 67 65 67 72 271 €94,876
7 Alexander Levy (Fra) 69 65 70 68 272 €73,547
8 Henrik Stenson (Swe) 70 68 70 65 273 €61,290
T9 Paul Casey (Eng) 70 65 69 70 274 €46,139
T9 Fabrizio Zanotti (Par) 67 69 68 70 274 €46,139
T9 Dustin Johnson (USA) 72 64 68 70 274 €46,139
T9 Andrew Johnston (Eng) 68 68 66 72 274 €46,139
T9 Thomas Detry (Bel) 70 68 64 72 274 €46,139