Tommy Fleetwood retains Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title

England's Tommy Fleetwood tees off on the 2nd hole during the final round of the Abu Dhabi Championship golf tournament in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Tommy Fleetwood retains Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title

ABU DHABI: Tommy Fleetwood successfully defended his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title on Sunday after a sensational back nine to clinch the win.
The 27-year-old Englishman, who celebrated his birthday on Friday, started the final round two shots behind overnight leaders Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters, and an indifferent front nine saw him make the turn five shots behind Fisher as gusty winds hit the National course of Abu Dhabi Golf Club
But Fleetwood birdied the 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 18th holes for a seven-under par 65 round to finish on 22-under 267.
Fisher, 37, got off to a fast start when he made an eagle from 45 feet on the par-5 second hole and added two more birdies in his front nine. A bogey on the par-5 10th, which could have easily turned into a double if not for a 25-feet bogey putt, stalled his progress.
Playing two groups ahead of him, Fleetwood had birdied the 10th and 12th holes, but he saved his best golf for the next four holes. On the 13th, he was stymied behind a tree but hit his second shot from the desert to six feet.
The top-ranked European then rolled in a 25-feet putt on the par-3 15th to join Fisher at 20-under, before moving ahead with a 50-feet birdie putt on the 16th hole. He then picked up another shot on the 18th, which proved to be a luxury cushion when Fisher failed to make birdies on the 17th and 18th.
"I feel a lot more emotional, actually, than last year. I don't know why. I just really wanted to win this one," said Fleetwood, who is expected to advance from 18th to 11th in the rankings on Monday.
"I had the year of my life last year. I know everybody has been talking about it, and just backing it up is the next big thing, really. It's a weird feeling coming to defend a trophy because it's yours and you don't want to give it away."
Fleetwood added that the tough conditions made it easier for him to focus.
"I wouldn't have known I shot 30 on the back nine when I came in. I was playing really well. I was hitting really good shots in. It was just a case of scoring being tough, and we had to keep going. It was sort of shot after shot.
"When the conditions are that tough and that windy, it actually helps you focus on each shot because there's never any easy shots. Two days before, with flat calm conditions, it was way easier to look ahead."
A disappointed Fisher, who was runner-up twice late in 2017 and is winless since the Tshwane Open in March 2014, praised Fleetwood's perfomance.
"Hats off to Tommy. I don't feel like I've lost a tournament. He's gone out there and shot 65 and he's won it, so all credit to him," said Fisher.
McIlroy finished inside the top-five once again — his eighth top-five in nine Abu Dhabi starts — but he was happy with the result this time.
"It just felt great to get another tournament under my belt. It's a great start to the year. I have no complaints. My body held up really well. My game was probably better than I expected it to be. So I'm really happy with the week," said McIlroy who started well with two birdies in his first four holes, but could not get going on the back nine.

LEADERBOARD

266 - Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 66-68-67-65
268 - Ross Fisher (ENG) 67-67-65-69
270 - Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 68-70-63-69, Rory McIlroy (NIR) 69-66-65-70
271 - Chris Paisley (ENG) 69-67-66-69, Thomas Pieters (BEL) 67-65-67-72
272 - Alexander Levy (FRA) 69-65-70-68
273 - Henrik Stenson (SWE) 70-68-70-65
274 - Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR) 67-69-68-70, Dustin Johnson (USA) 72-64-68-70, Paul Casey (ENG) 70-65-69-70, Andrew Johnston (ENG) 68-68-66-72, Thomas Detry (BEL) 70-68-64-72
275 - Jorge Campillo (ESP) 69-64-72-70
276 - Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 69-70-69-68, Jeughun Wang (KOR) 71-67-67-71, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 67-68-69-72, Branden Grace (RSA) 72-64-67-73
277 - Richard Sterne (RSA) 68-72-67-70, Paul Dunne (IRE) 68-70-65-74, Dylan Frittelli (RSA) 69-67-67-74
278 - Wu Ashun (PRC) 71-67-72-68, Scott Hend (AUS) 71-69-69-69, Justin Rose (ENG) 71-71-67-69, Mikko Korhonen (FIN) 73-68-68-69, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 70-70-68-70
279 - Lasse Jensen (DEN) 70-71-70-69, Sengsu Han (USA) 73-67-69-70, Martin Kaymer (GER) 69-68-71-71
280 - Matteo Manassero (ITA) 70-71-70-69, Thomas Bjorn (DEN) 73-69-69-69
281 - Matt Wallace (ENG) 71-68-72-70, Robert Karlsson (SWE) 71-70-70-70, Matt Kuchar (USA) 72-70-69-70, Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL) 69-70-71-71, Benjamin Hebert (FRA) 72-68-69-72, Ryan Fox (NZL) 70-66-72-73, Kristofer Broberg (SWE) 69-69-70-73, Sam Brazel (AUS) 67-68-70-76
282 - Rafa Cabrera-Bello (ESP) 72-70-73-67, Adrian Otaegui (ESP) 70-69-73-70, Darren Fichardt (RSA) 73-67-71-71, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) 71-71-69-71, Byeong-hun An (KOR) 71-70-70-71, Richie Ramsay (SCO) 68-70-72-72, Mikko Ilonen (FIN) 68-74-67-73, Dean Burmester (RSA) 69-72-67-74
283 - Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 72-70-72-69, Alejandro Canizares (ESP) 71-71-71-70, Shubhankar Sharma (IND) 71-70-70-72, Joost Luiten (NED) 69-68-72-74, Jason Scrivener (AUS) 69-68-71-75
284 - Gary Stal (FRA) 72-69-74-69, Haydn Porteus (RSA) 72-70-71-71, Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN) 69-73-71-71, Carlos Pigem (ESP) 68-71-72-73, Joakim Lagergren (SWE) 69-73-69-73, Ricardo Gouveia (POR) 72-70-69-73, Nino Bertasio (ITA) 70-71-69-74, Andy Sullivan (ENG) 70-65-73-76
285 - Gregory Bourdy (FRA) 71-70-72-72, Alvaro Quiros (ESP) 70-72-71-72, Jordan Smith (ENG) 72-70-69-74, Lee Slattery (ENG) 69-72-69-75, Brandon Stone (RSA) 69-70-70-76, Stephen Gallacher (SCO) 68-72-69-76,
286 - Gregory Havret (FRA) 70-71-70-75,
288 _ Hideto Tanihara (JPN) 66-72-74-76,
289 - Lucas Bjerregaard (DEN) 72-69-73-75, Jacques Kruyswijk (RSA) 75-67-71-76
292 - Scott Vincent (ZIM) 69-70-73-80,


Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

Updated 23 January 2019
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Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

  • Can the mighty minnows continue impressive run in the UAE?
  • Or will the big guns start to fire in quarterfinals?

LONDON: Asia’s biggest sporting spectacle has reached its quarterfinal stage — and it’s time for teams to find their A-game. While there are few surprises in the last-eight lineup, the form of some of the big-name sides has been less than impressive. Here we deliver our verdict on the second round.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Saudi Arabia’s attack

The Green Falcons started the tournament at top speed. They came in as one of the cup favorites and in their opening two matches illustrated why. A 4-0 thrashing of North Korea was backed up with a relatively simple 2-0 victory over Lebanon. Understandably, that raised hopes that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men could go all the way in the UAE. Alas, it was not to be as a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their last group clash left them with a tricky tie against Japan. For all their efforts Saudi Arabia were unable to find the back of the net, the lack of firepower upfront costing Pizzi’s team yet again.



BIGGEST SHOCK — South Korean sloppiness

Boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son Heung-Min, South Korea were rightly declared the pre-tournament favorites. They had firepower up front, intelligence and creativity in midfield, and experience at the back. In the four matches in the UAE so far, however, they have looked anything but potential champions. They labored to beat Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China in the group stage before almost being shocked by part-timers Bahrain in the second round. South Korea now face Qatar in the last eight and, as Son said after their extra-time win over Bahrain, they need to significantly improve if they are to avoid a shock exit before the semis.



UNDER PRESSURE — Alberto Zaccheroni and the UAE



The Whites owe their place in the last eight to luck more than skill. In some ways that is not a surprise — the hosts came into the tournament without their talisman, the injured Omar Abdulrahman, and on the back of a patchy run of form. But, still, the performances on home soil have been underwhelming to say the least. That was summed up with their extra-time win over Kyrgyzstan, who were playing in their first Asian Cup. It was a far-from-convincing performance and Central Asians were unlucky not to beat Zaccheroni’s side. The UAE will have to deliver their best performance for some time if they are to progress further. Their opponents, Australia, have also performed poorly, which may offer them some encouragement.



BEST HIGHLIGHT — The mighty minnows

The big guns have not had it all their own way. That may annoy their fans, but it does show that Asian football is improving. Only a few years ago the idea that Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain and Jordan would look the equals of Australia and Co. would have seemed fanciful. But in the past two weeks the standard shown by the so-called lesser lights has been impressive — and great to watch. Last summer five Asian teams appeared at the World Cup for the first time and it was hoped that showing would act as a springboard for further progress across the continent. On the evidence of the action in the UAE that wish could be coming true.

 

PREDICTIONS