Tommy Fleetwood flies high in Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Almost three and a half years after winning his first European Tour title Tommy Fleetwood beat US Open Champion Dustin Johnson and 2014 winner Pablo Larrazábal to win his second title at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The Englishman’s birdie on the par five closing hole proved decisive, sealing a final round of 67 and a winning total of 17 under par. That was beyond the reach of Spaniard Larrazábal, who birdied the last for a round of 68 to finish one shot short, and American Johnson who eagled the 18th to also sign for a 68 and a 16 under par total.

“I thought maybe my second win would come sooner to be honest,” said the 2011 Challenge Tour  graduate who played a sublime approach to the 18th from the rough after getting a free relief drop. “On 18 I got a good break. It took me a few drops to get the perfect spot but I just had a go at it. You’ve got to take those chances if you want to win. To be honest, that was easier than the four-foot putt to win in the end.

“I had a really good hard time from July 2015 to July last year where I really struggled with my game. It’s been an awkward curve. The only thing left was let’s get a win, but I kept thinking you keep knocking on the door, it would come. I didn’t really think it would be this week. Just shows a lot can happen in golf.”

Germany’s Martin Kaymer, the three-time champion who had set the pace for much of the final round, dropped two shots in four holes on the back nine but also finished with an eagle in a round of 69 to share fourth place on 15 under par alongside Austrian Bernd Wiesberger (68) and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (69).

After a level par front nine, Fleetwood’s challenge was enhanced by a chip-in eagled on the tenth and he followed that with birdies on the 11th, 16th and 18th holes. That latter birdie earned the 26 year old his first win since his maiden European Tour title at the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. It also moves him to the top of the early season Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex following a top three finish in the UBS Hong Kong Open before Christmas.

World No.3 Johnson, making his debut in the event, was satisfied with his performance in the UAE’s capital.

“It was a pretty good week. Obviously I got off to a rough start the first day. I didn’t play very well. I wasn’t feeling that great the first day. But then obviously I came back and played well Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“I’m happy with the golf game. It’s going to keep getting better. I’m happy with the way I played and the way I finished. I made a really bad bogey there on the par three 15th but other than that, it was a pretty solid day. I didn’t really make any putts until the last hole.”

Larrazábal, who had an up and down round but finished strongly with birdies on the last two holes in his quest for a second victory in the event, said:

“I didn’t play my best today but I tried my best and never gave up. I holed a few big putts and chipped in which was great but four bogeys on Sunday afternoon is not good enough and that was what killed me. I had so much fun out there though and I am proud of the way that I kept fighting today even though I didn’t play my best stuff. It’s a great start to the season and I want to keep working hard to keep improving and give myself more chances to win big tournaments like this one.”

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