ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Tommy Fleetwood broke free from a pack of contenders containing three major champions to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship by one shot on Sunday, ending the Englishman’s 3½-year wait for a second European Tour title.
In a tense final round in which five players held the lead, the 26-year-old Fleetwood chipped in for eagle from 20 yards at the par-5 10th hole to spark a back nine of 31. That helped him to a 5-under 67, the lowest score of a windy day, and 17 under overall.
Only an eagle from Pablo Larrazabal in the final group could deny Fleetwood, and when the 2014 champion’s approach came up short, Fleetwood celebrated with his team behind the green.
Major winners Dustin Johnson (68), Martin Kaymer (69) and Henrik Stenson (69) were in the chasing pack all day, with three-time winner Kaymer leading on his own for two holes before dropping three shots in a five-hole stretch around the turn.
Johnson, the U.S. Open champion, eagled the last for a 68 and a share of second place with Larrazabal on 16 under. Kaymer also eagled No. 18 and was in a three-way share for 4th place with Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Bernd Wiesberger.
Fleetwood’s only previous win came at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in August 2013.
He had missed the cut at four of his previous five appearances in Abu Dhabi, which many players use as their first event of the year, but had come into the tournament in decent form with 10 top-20 finishes in 12 events stretching back to September.
“You know (if) you keep knocking on the door, it would come,” said Fleetwood, who is distinctive with his long, flowing hair. “I didn’t really think it would be this week.”
This win will lift him from a ranking of No. 102 into the top 50.
“I thought maybe my second win would come sooner, to be honest,” he said. “It’s been a massive comeback.”
Leading by a shot as he teed off on No. 18, Fleetwood pulled his drive into the spectators but got relief and a nice lie off his drop. He smashed a 3-wood toward the green, shouting at the ball as it flew through the air, and it settled in the heart of the putting surface.
“I did get a good break,” Fleetwood said. “Took me a few drops trying 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.”
His putt for eagle slid three feet by, but he made no mistake coming back.
Playing his first event in the Middle East, Johnson started the final round in the last group and on the back of a 64 on Saturday. However, he didn’t make is first birdie until No. 8 – remarkably that was his first birdie on a par-5 hole all week – and his strong finish of two birdies and an eagle in his final six holes came too late.
Larrazabal was seeking his second win here in three years and provided more energy on the course than any other player, thanks to a 35-footer for birdie for No. 14, chipping in from the fringe at No. 14 – to briefly tie the lead – and then a 20-foot putt for birdie at No. 17.