Tommy Fleetwood successfully defends Abu Dhabi title


Tommy Fleetwood produced a brillaint back nine on his way to a two-shot victory as he successfully defended his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA title.

Just a few days after winning the Seve Ballesteros Award, European No.1 Tommy Fleetwood shot a final round of 65 to beat out compatriot Ross Fisher in the second tournament of the year. 

With big putts on the 15th and 16th that saw him join and then overtake Fisher at the top, Fleetwood's impressive six-under par back nine proved that he is more than ready to continue last season's form. 

"It was pretty good on that back nine,” Fleetwood said. “When putts are going in like they did on 15 and 16 you just think ‘could this be my day at again?’ The up and down at 18 was one of the best I’ve ever made.”

"I feel a lot more emotional than last year. I just really wanted to win this one. I had the year of my life last year. Just backing it up is the next big thing really, to keep going and hit form early."

"You just never know how you're going to come back after winter, and I just felt really good this week. It's nice to show yourself that you're still moving forward."

The 27-year-old Race to Dubai Champion found himself five shots adrift of Fisher by the turn, whose front-nine 32 put him to 21-under-par. But while Fisher struggled on the back nine, Fleetwood made his first move with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 10th, providing a crucial momentum swing.

Fleetwood then holed a 15 foot putt on the 12th to put himself in to a three-way tie for second alongside McIlroy and joint overnight leader Thomas Pieters, although the Belgian's challenge unravelled on the 11th as he tangled with a bunker and ran up a double.

The defending champion's charge continued with another gain from eight feet on the 13th, before drawing level with Fisher by rolling in a 30 footer on the 15th. A spectacular 40 footer on the 16th put Fleetwood in front for the first time since the opening round, and a wayward tee shot on the 15th saw Fisher drop a shot to fall two behind. Although Fisher got the shot back on the next, Fleetwood maintained the pressure with a birdie from five feet at the last, and Fisher was unable to eagle the 18th to force a play-off.

Rory McIlroy had an impressive first outing since his last appearance at The Dunhill Links in October, and was just one shot off the lead heading in to Sunday's round, but ended up four shots adrift of Fleetwood with a two-under par 70. McIlroy shared third spot with Matthew Fitzpatrick, whose run of three birdies on the last three holes helped him to a final-round 69.

Thomas Pieters had a chance to join them but missed a short putt on the 18th and was left to settle for a share of fifth place on 17 under with last week's SA Open winner Chris Paisley (69) - his chances of victory ended after back-to-back bogeys at the fifth and sixth and a double-bogey at the 11th.

France's Alexander Levy (68) came seventh on 16 under, one ahead of Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who matched Fleetwood's closing 65.

World No 1 Dustin Johnson (70), English duo Paul Casey (70) and Andrew Johnston (72), Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay (70) and Belgium's Thomas Detry (72) tied for ninth place on 14 under.