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,
Saudi Arabian football clubs helped with debts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
- Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will cover all external debts owed by Saudi Professional League clubs
- Crown Prince will provide 1,277,000,000 Saudi riyals (around $340 million)
RIYADH: The General Sports Authority and Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) have announced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will cover all external debts owed by Saudi Professional League clubs.
According to reports, the Crown Prince will provide 1,277,000,000 Saudi riyals (around $340 million) that will not only clear monies owed but also enable clubs to invest ahead of the 2018-19 season.
The issue of debt had become a major issue in the country’s football scene.
“Some Saudi Arabian clubs are currently experiencing financial problems that require immediate and urgent intervention,” the General Sports Authority, which oversees Saudi Arabian sport, said in a statement released on social media.
The body noted that there are a total of 107 cases under appeal at world governing body FIFA regarding unpaid salaries in Saudi Arabia.
“Failure to intervene urgently to rescue clubs may result in damage to the reputation of the Kingdom in general and Saudi Arabian sport in particular,” added the GSA.
“Some Saudi Arabian clubs may face severe disciplinary sanctions because of the failure to meet financial obligations such as the
denial of the registration of players in general or the deduction of points.”
Unpaid salaries were also a factor in Al-Ittihad and Al-Nassr being unable to appear in this year’s AFC Champions League after they were denied AFC club licenses.
Al-Ittihad were the club with the highest debt of 309 million riyals ($82 million) and welcomed the news.
“We are delighted by the generous initiative of His Royal Highness,” Al-Ittihad president Nawaf Al-Muqairn said in an official statement released by the two-time Asian champions.
“This contributes to creating solid ground for all clubs to move toward achieving their goals.”
Legendary Saudi striker Sami Al-Jaber, recently appointed president of champions Al-Hilal, announced his gratitude on social media.
“Great thanks to His Highness the Crown Prince for the great support that the clubs have enjoyed which enables sport in our country to keep pace with the aspirations of our leadership,” Al-Jaber wrote.
The Crown Prince’s move followed the SAFF announcing a new raft of regulations in April that will come into effect next season and are designed to take the league forward. These included restricting club spending on transfers and salaries to 70 percent of revenue. The size of first-team squads has been reduced from 33 to 28, of which five must be homegrown players of 23 or younger.