Brilliant back nine sees Fleetwood retain title

By Nicholas McGee 21 January 2018 1
Brilliant back nine sees Fleetwood retain title

Tommy Fleetwood retained his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title in spectacular fashion as he produced a remarkable showing on the back nine to emerge victorious.

The Englishman had trailed overnight leaders Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters by two strokes going into the final 18 holes and was five back at the turn on Sunday.

But a scintillating run of seven birdies in his final nine holes saw Fleetwood surge to a 65, finishing 22 under par for the tournament, two strokes ahead of Fisher.

Rory McIlroy, playing his first tournament since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October, claimed a share of third with Matthew Fitzpatrick after a closing 70.

The four-time major winner will be encouraged by his performance as he seeks to put his well-documented injury problems behind him, but the day belonged to Fleetwood, who will now move into the world's top 10.

It looked like being a different story after Fisher made the turn in 32, but a momentum swing came on the 10th as he bogeyed and Fleetwood holed from 12 feet for birdie.

A 15-footer on the 12th put Fleetwood in a three-way tie for second before putts from eight feet and 30 feet on the 13th and 15th moved him level with Fisher.

The lead was gained in stunning fashion as Fleetwood found the cup from 40 feet as Fisher paid the price for an errant tee shot, falling two shots off the pace.

Fisher did recover one stroke immediately but, after a birdie from Fleetwood on the 18th, an eagle at the last proved beyond him as the defending champion prevailed.

"It was pretty good on that back nine really," said Fleetwood. "I think at the turn, it was just a few shots – the up-and-down on 10, the up-and-down on 11, 13, got a bit lucky with the tee shot.

"When putts were going in like 15 and 16, you just feel like, could this be my day again. Then 18, I mean, forget the second shot, the up-and-down was one of the best up-and-downs I ever made. So happy days.

"I holed the putts on the back nine, ten, 12, 13, 15, 16, the up-and-down on 18. I was just in the moment and seeing the shots."

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Nicholas McGee