Tommy Fleetwood retains Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title
Tommy Fleetwood retains Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title
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.
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,
Jorge Jesus warns Al-Hilal the hard work is only just beginning ahead of Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad
- New coach tells team they have to go up a gear it they are to beat Al-Ittihad in London this weekend.
- Omar Abdulrahman set to make his Al-Hilal debut in the Saudi Super Cup.
Al-Hilal have been told that they have to go up a gear if they are to have a chance of victory against Al-Ittihad in Saturday’s Super Cup in London.
The Riyadh giants kicked off the new season with a 1-0 victory over Oman’s Al-Shabab in the Arab Champions Cup on Sunday. But coach Jorge Jesus has told his players that only a much better display will allow them to get their hands on the Super Cup trophy at QPR’s Loftus Road stadium this week.
Al-Shabab were beaten thanks to a goal from right-back Mohammed Al-Breik midway through the first-half. It gives Al-Hilal a slim advantage to take to the away leg in September as they bid to reach the last 16.
For Jesus, the match was another step toward being where he wants to be when the Saudi Pro League kicks off at the end of August.
“We were missing a number of players and when we are at full strength then we will be at a different level,” the Portuguese coach said.
“We can play better than this and we need to be more clinical in attack and take our chances.”
It was a hard-fought game against a committed and physical opponent who seemed to relish taking on the star-studded hosts.
“It was the kind of test that we needed at this stage,” added the former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon boss who was appointed in June.
“It was good to keep a clean sheet and we are now looking forward to the next game in London.”
The 64-year-old is expecting a tough test against domestic rivals Al-Ittihad in the British capital, not least because the Jeddah club’s new coach is Ramon Diaz. Even though he led Al-Hilal to last year’s AFC Champions League final, the Argentine was fired by the Riyadh club in February.
There is mixed news for Al-Hilal, however, as they prepare to defend their domestic title. Star midfielders Abdullah Otayf and Nawaf Al-Abed played no part against Al-Shabab and may miss the start of the league season. Otayf has picked up a knee injury that could keep the 25-year-old out of action for two or three weeks. Al-Abed, meanwhile, is struggling to recover from a series of injuries and niggles that have kept the playmaker out of action since last year. The 28-year-old will undergo a series of tests to determine whether surgery is needed. Salman Al-Faraj, another Saudi Arabia international, missed the game but should be fit for the trip to London.
Jesus surprised fans by pushing 19-year-old Nasser Al-Dawsari into the middle, and the teenager impressed with an assured display. It was enough to suggest that he could play a significant role in the team in the coming season as Al-Hilal look to challenge on multiple fronts at home, in Asia and in the Arab Champions Cup.
New signing Omar Abdulrahman did not play. But the 2016 Asian Player of the Year, who joined the club last week in a season-long deal that cost an estimated $17 million — the second most expensive loan signing in football history — was introduced to the crowd during half-time at the King Saud University Stadium. The United Arab Emirates playmaker received a rapturous reception as he returned to his boyhood club.
Jesus also revealed that there may be another addition to the squad before the Saudi Arabian summer transfer window closes on Aug. 23. “We are working on bringing in a new striker,” the coach said.
“If all goes well then the deal should be done soon.”
Having faced King’s Cup winners Al-Ittihad at Loftus Road this Saturday, the Saudi Arabian champions will then return home for the start of their title defense on Aug. 31 against Al-Feiha.