Friday 20 October 2017

Fleetwood digs deep in Abu Dhabi as Dunne fails to fire

Fleetwood hit a wonderful approach to seven feet on the 16th to move ahead for the first time and then, on the par-five 18th, capitalised on a good break. Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images
Fleetwood hit a wonderful approach to seven feet on the 16th to move ahead for the first time and then, on the par-five 18th, capitalised on a good break. Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

James Corrigan

Tommy Fleetwood had become the forgotten talent of English youth golf. No longer. Not after the 26-year-old from Southport fended off world No 3 Dustin Johnson with a display of nerve to land the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

His 67 in a gripping final round gave him a 17-under total, a one-shot triumph over Johnson and Spain's Pablo Larrazábal and his second title on the European Tour.

As Fleetwood said, nobody expected him to take over three years to follow up his maiden victory at Gleneagles in 2013.

Two years ago Fleetwood arrived here in confident form, having only been denied a place in the world's top 50 and a spot at the Masters by a fraction of a point. The player who inched him out was a certain Danny Willett.

Yet while the Yorkshireman kicked on in spectacular fashion - famously winning the Masters last year - and as the likes of Matt Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood hurtled up into the elite, Fleetwood bafflingly went backwards.

By the middle of last season he had fallen outside the top 180.

"I had a really rough time, I was really struggling," Fleetwood said. "I tried changing my swing because I thought it would make me a world-class golfer.

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"I was a bit naive, a bit silly. I went back to my old coach, Alan Thompson, who's coached me since I was 13 and have been on an upward trend from August really.

"The next step up was this win. But as well as Dustin, there was Henrik (Stenson) and Martin (Kaymer) up there and they're all world-beaters. So I'm happy that I sort of proved myself against some of the world's best."

By doing so, Fleetwood, who began the week ranked 101st, has climbed to the brink of the top 50. He will be desperate to rise a few places by the end of March so he can make his debut in Augusta.

Fleetwood was only on the periphery after going through his first nine in level par. However, a chip-in for eagle on the 10th saw him gain momentum and when he birdied the next he was level with playing partner, Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

With the pair locked, Fleetwood hit a wonderful approach to seven feet on the 16th to move ahead for the first time and then, on the par-five 18th, capitalised on a good break.

His hooked drive was destined for the desert before hitting a spectator. Fleetwood was able to take a free drop and from a kindly lie found the green 250 yards off.

Wicklow's Paul Dunne had a disappointing weekend, following up Saturday's 73 with a final-round 77, leaving him in a tie for 39th on four-under.

Seamus Power finished in tied 21st at the CareerBuilder Challenge in California. Five birdies and a double bogey saw the Waterford man card a three-under-par 69 to leave him on 11-under for the tournament.

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