Abu Dhabi double for fearless Fleetwood

Tommy trophy.jpg

DOUBLE TOPS:  Tommy Fleetwood with the trophy. Photo Getty Images

LANCASHIRE hot-shot Tommy Fleetwood fired a brilliant closing round of 65 in windy conditions to become only the second player to successfully defend the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

The Race to Dubai champion won the title by one shot from Dustin Johnson and former champion Pablo Larrazábal 12 months ago – a victory which sparked a sensational 2017 European Tour campaign – and he doubled his victory margin this time, finishing two strokes clear of fellow Englishman Ross Fisher.

Fisher had led for much of the final round after an eagle on the second hole followed by two birdies on the front nine, but after a long putt for bogey on the 10th, he was reeled in by Fleetwood, who produced a quite stunning back nine to surge to victory.

Fleetwood made a mockery of the incredibly difficult conditions coming down the stretch, carding six birdies over the closing nine holes, including a superb up and down from the greenside rough on the last. Upon witnessing Fleetwood hole out for victory, Rory McIlroy offered a simple judgement of Fleetwood’s back nine: “That was obscene.”

Fleetwood’s winning total of 22 under par 266 was just two shots shy of the tournament’s record low score of 24 under par 264 set by Martin Kaymer in 2011, and Fleetwood follows the German as the only other player to retain the title at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

It was his fourth European Tour title – and first as a father – capping a fine week for the Southport player who celebrated his 27th birthday on Friday and earlier in the week received the Seve Ballesteros Award after being voted Players’ Player of the Year for 2017 by his fellow European Tour players.

Fisher had to settle for his third runner-up finish in six European Tour appearances after a final round of 69, while McIlroy also missed out again in Abu Dhabi on his return to action after a four month injury absence. The four-time Major Champion recorded his eighth top five finish in ten appearances in Abu Dhabi after closing with a round of 70 to finish four shots back on 18 under par in a share of third place with Ryder Cup teammate Matthew Fitzpatrick, who finished with three consecutive birdies for a 69.

Player quotes

Tommy Fleetwood: “I was saying from the start of the week, I’ve never defended. I’ve never come to a tournament as defending champion before. It’s a really strange feeling because you feel quite possessive over your trophy and you don’t really want to give it back. So that’s always been in the back of my mind this week. Luckily enough, I was playing well and I had a chance to win, and the back nine was a very special nine holes. It’s a very, very nice feeling.

“Last year, I had had the year of my life by a long, long way on the course. And everything we’ve done, everything we’ve talked about, was to make sure that we kept progressing, kept improving.

“I wanted to look at the year like, if Justin Rose had shot level par on that back nine on Sunday in The Race to Dubai, then I wouldn’t have had The Race to Dubai title. So, it was sort of important to look at it that way; to try and prove as if you were hurt and you had not had that whole euphoria of achieving something amazing in your career. So all the practice has been very good. I prepared well last week. I had a great week in Malaysia, and then to sort of validate your position of Race to Dubai Champion, and Player of the Year, so early on is really nice and satisfying in a way.”



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