Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson move in opposite directions in 2018 season debuts

Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson move in opposite directions in 2018 season debuts

Javier Howell
January 23, 2018

That seems to be Tommy Fleetwood's motto after making it back-to-back wins at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

A brilliant back nine of 30 in windy conditions saw Tommy Fleetwood cement his position as one of golf's growing forces as the Englishman successfully defended the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, denying Rory McIlroy's fearless bid to make a winning return after a three-month absence. "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.

"I just had the lines going really well", Fleetwood said after a round which featured eight birdies and only one bogey.

And after he scorched past McIlroy and joint leaders Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters with a sensational 65 in windy conditions - rounded off with a six under par 30 on the closing nine - it was Fleetwood's turn to accept the plaudits.

Overnight joint leader, Belgium's Thomas Pieters (72), and England's Chris Paisley (69), victor of last week's South African Open, were tied fifth at 17-under 271. But on the back nine, he made a bogey on the 10th and a solitary birdie on the 16th hole to finish on 20-under par. With plenty to look forward to, the build-up to The 2018 Ryder Cup promises to be one of the most fascinating yet.

Europeans shine with hat-trick of victories

The 27-year-old seemed nearly as shocked by his fourth European Tour title as those he'd left in his wake, telling TV commentator Andrew Coltart his first title defence had been an emotional affair.

"I putted really well. I didn't hit many good shots there but it's still nice to make a par on the last after the mess I made". "I don't feel like I've lost a tournament, because Tommy's gone out there and shot 65 and he's won it, so all credit to him". "I think I played pretty good today", he said. I did this as I wanted to come out still feeling hungry.

The Southport star's birthday has fallen on one of the early rounds of this tournament for the last two years. So all the practice has been very good. Just trying to hang on, felt like I played solid.

But his final round was far too steady until three consecutive birdies on the final three holes saw him climb to a third placed finish in a tie with Rory McIlroy.

He had started the day with an eagle on the par five second, and was out in 32.

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