Fisher, Pieters share Abu Dhabi lead with McIlroy on their heels

23 January, 2018, 01:42 | Author: Laura Christensen
  • Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his 2018 debut

Tommy Fleetwood entered this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Champions as the defending champion.

Hours later Fleetwood delivered European Ryder Cup Captain, Thomas Bjorn another New Year's greeting gift in successfully defending his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title winning by two shots in the UAE capital ahead of the likes of Rory McIlroy and World No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

"Maybe, I didn't get the ball close enough on the back nine today but apart from that it's been really good". "I just really wanted to win this one".

The back-nine heroics of Fleetwood included making a 25 feet putt for birdie on the 15th hole to tie for the lead with Fisher, and then a 50-feet birdie putt to take outright lead on the 16th hole.

Overnight joint leader, Belgium's Thomas Pieters (72), and England's Chris Paisley (69), victor of last week's South African Open, were tied fifth at 17-under 271. Par breakers at 8 and 10 seemed to draw him back into a title bid however an errant approach, from the fairway, at the 417-yard par-4 11th found sand and he then three-putted for double bogey-6.

Having dropped just one shot in his opening 54 holes, McIlroy's second bogey of the week came at the sixth hole just as another Englishman, Ross Fisher, began to surge. "So I'm looking forward to next week in Dubai and obviously looking forward to the rest of the season".

World No 1 Dustin Johnson, runner-up to Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi a year ago, closed with a 70 to finish eight shots adrift of the champion, and the American also joined the plaudits. "It's a unusual feeling because you feel quite possessive over your trophy and you don't really want to give it back". "I actually feel more emotional than I did past year".

"I wouldn't have known I shot 30 on the back nine when I came in". I don't feel like I've lost a tournament. "I hit a lot of really good iron shots", said. So all the practice has been very good.

Rory McIlroy may have been something of a forgotten man during his injury-riddled 2017 season, but the fit and self-assured golfer who kicked off his 2018 season with a robust T3 finish in the Middle East has a message for his peers: I'm back, baby.

Tommy has been playing well for a long time, and he's the guy to beat in Europe right now.


His run started when he drained a huge eagle putt at the par-5 second, while he also birdied the front nine's two par-3s. "This gives me confidence going into not only next week but the few months ahead, as well".



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