ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – If you thought Tommy Fleetwood was a one-season wonder, think again. The Englishman proved that emphatically by defending the $3 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship he won 12 months ago.
The reigning European No. 1 handled the desert winds that blew over Abu Dhabi Golf Club better than the rest of the field to earn the $500,000 first place check. Fleetwood returned a closing 65 for a 22-under 266 to beat Ross Fisher by two shots, and Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick by four.
Two shots off the lead at the start of the day, Fleetwood won thanks to an excellent back nine. Out in 35 shots, one under, Fleetwood birdied five of the first seven holes of his back nine to overtake Fisher at the top of the leaderboard. A birdie at the par-5 last, when he got up and down from left of the green, was the icing on the cake.
“It was pretty good on that back nine,” Fleetwood said. “When putts are going in like they did on 15 and 16 you just think ‘could this be my day at again?’ The up and down at 18 was one of the best I’ve ever made.”
Victory last year ended an 18-month slump for Fleetwood and spearheaded his run to the European season championship.
“I feel a lot more emotional than last year,” he admitted. “I just really wanted to win this one.
“I had the year of my life last year. Just backing it up is the next big thing really, to keep going and hit form early.
“You just never know how you’re going to come back after winter, and I just felt really good this week. It’s nice to show yourself that you’re still moving forward.”
Fleetwood, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Thursday, made a successful entrance to professional team golf when he earned three points out of three to help Europe win the EurAsia Cup last week. Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, who also captained the EurAsia Cup team, will want Fleetwood in his team at Le Golf National, Paris when he lines up against a powerful United States team on September 28.
Who wouldn’t? Fleetwood’s the real deal.