Round 4 - Rickie Fowler clinches one shot win
January 25, 2016
Rickie Fowler puffed his cheeks and shook his head. What looked like being a procession to the Abu Dhabi Championship title ended up being a squeeze for the American on Sunday.
It needed two moments of inspiration in the final round to seal a one-shot victory - and spark more talk about Fowler's place in golf's current elite.
Dressed in his trademark Sunday orange, Fowler rebounded from a double-bogey at No. 7, which helped trim his lead over a congested pack of challengers from four strokes to one, by chipping in from 30 yards for eagle from a bunker at No. 8.
Then, at No. 17, Fowler holed a chip from just off the green for a birdie that shook off playing partner Thomas Pieters, the Belgian who emerged from the bunch to chase Fowler all the way down the stretch.
''It was not how it was planned,'' a smiling Fowler said of the tight finish, ''but came out on top.''
Fowler, who held a two-stroke lead after a third-round 65, shot a 3-under 69 for 16-under 272 overall. Pieters (67) was runner-up, with fast-finishing Rory McIlroy (68) and Henrik Stenson (67) tied for third.
There was satisfaction for Fowler with claiming his fourth win worldwide in nine months, after victories at The Players Championship, the Scottish Open, and the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2015. This win will move him from No. 6 to No. 4 in the rankings, for a first-ever spot in the world's top five.
The so-called ''Big Three'' of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and McIlroy may need to be enlarged.
''I want to be part of the crew. It would be a pretty good foursome,'' Fowler said. ''I think I mentioned through the summer at some point, I said I was a sneaky fourth. We've got to take care of a major and then maybe I can join the crew.''
The win was extra special for Fowler, considering Spieth (No. 1), McIlroy (No. 3) and Stenson (No. 5) were in the field - arguably the strongest the European Tour will have this year.
Spieth tied for fifth - five shots behind Fowler - after a 68 and acknowledged after his final round that he was ''beat up, mentally and physically,'' having played in South Korea, China, Australia, Bahamas, Hawaii and now Abu Dhabi since October.
''I'm very tired. I am,'' Spieth said. ''I'm not 100 percent right.''
The championship went down to the wire. Fowler took a two-shot lead over Pieters down the par-5 18th and found a greenside bunker with his approach. Pieters gave himself a putt for eagle, which he missed left by an inch.
Fowler had two putts to win and he needed them both, with his winning effort from 2 feet.
''I didn't do much wrong today,'' said the big-hitting Pieters, who moved to within one shot of Fowler with a birdie on No. 13 but only parred his way to the 18th. ''Next time maybe some more putts drop, that's it.''
This is the first time Fowler has won during the first four months of a year. He has made a fashion statement this week by wearing high-top golf shoes and ankle-tight jogger pants, but he's sent out a golfing message, too.
''Nice to have the game where it's at right now going into the season, instead of trying to work on things,'' he said. ''I'd say this is really the first time in my career I've had that.''
It was another near miss for McIlroy, who adds a third place to his four runner-up finishes in Abu Dhabi at what is always his first event of each year.
McIlroy started the final round three shots behind Fowler and only came on strong late on, chipping in for birdie on No. 16 and rolling in a 35-foot eagle putt on No. 18.
''Seems like this could be the tournament that I just can't quite master,'' said McIlroy, who was making his 2016 debut after two months off. ''But still a good finish and a lot of good golf there.''
Round 3 - Five top crowded leaderboard
January 24, 2016
Jordan Spieth paced onto the green and marked one of the six balls on or around the putting surface in near-darkness at the Abu Dhabi Championship on Saturday.
Minutes earlier and on the same 9th hole, Rory McIlroy rummaged - in vain - through one bush, then another, on some wasteland for an errant ball belonging to his playing partner and then-tournament leader, Andy Sullivan.
It was an extraordinary end to a fog-hit, third day's play at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
The final day promises to be just as dramatic.
Sullivan made a triple-bogey before the horn sounded to suspend play in the third round, to fall out of the lead he'd held all day and leave a five-way tie atop the leaderboard between McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Ian Poulter, Branden Grace and Joost Luiten. The quintet is on 10-under par.
''It's a really bunched leaderboard,'' said McIlroy, one of 60 players yet to complete their third round. ''It will be a bit of a sprint to the finish.''
There are 21 players within three shots of the lead - and Spieth finally found some form to be among them.
The top-ranked American started the third round seven shots back, and finished it in the gathering gloom and in a six-ball - a career first - after barely beating the claxon on the 9th tee. Indeed, the horn sounded at the top of his backswing as he rushed to finish his round and avoid an early-morning return on Sunday.
Spieth is three shots off the lead after a 4-under 68, and in need of what he called a ''crazy round'' to take victory in his first regular European Tour event.
Sullivan is one of five players a shot behind, with 2012 champion Robert Rock, Henrik Stenson, Thomas Pieters and Rafael Cabrera-Bello - after his nightmare on No. 9, when he went way right off the tee. He searched for his ball in two separate bushes - McIlroy came over to lend a hand - but had to reload.
Sullivan's second drive found the rough on the right, his approach was short, his chip onto the green poor, and he two-putted from 10 feet.
''It wasn't great to see,'' McIlroy said. ''I was hoping he would have made that putt just to give him a little bit of momentum going into tomorrow.''
McIlroy chased down Sullivan in the final round of the season-ending World Tour Championship in November to clinch the Race to Dubai title. It has happened earlier this tournament - and this time, it was Sullivan who imploded.
The other member of the final group in the third round was Bryson DeChambeau, the American amateur with the self-styled nickname of ''The Golf Scientist,'' who plays with a set of home-made clubs that are all the same length. He started the round tied on 8-under par with McIlroy, but had dropped back to 7-under by the time play was suspended.
That group still had nine holes to play - more than any other group.
DeChambeau removed his earphones, took off his flat cap, and approached McIlroy on the practice green ahead of his first round with the four-time major winner.
''I'm Bryson, nice to meet you,'' DeChambeau said. And in another display of reverence, the U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion applauded when McIlroy's name was announced on the first tee.
DeChambeau was about to learn just how much pressure is involved in contending in a top-class field at a high-profile professional event. He drove into the bunker on No. 1, then drove into the tree on the right on No. 2 to make bogey. He appeared nervy for much of the round.
Fowler shot 68 in the second round and continued that form by picking up four shots in the 11 holes he managed in the third round. Poulter, playing with a taped-up thumb that he ''took a chunk out of'' on Thursday, made four birdies in five holes around the turn and was 5-under after 13 holes of his third round.
Play started nearly three hours late - for the second straight day - because of thick morning fog.
Resuming on No. 14, McIlroy made three of 15 pars in the round, before landing approach shots inside two feet on Nos. 17 and 18. He nearly holed a wedge shot on No. 17, before hitting a 5-wood from 268 yards to 18 inches on the last. He tapped in his eagle putt for a 70.
Round 2 - Andy Sullivan leads fog hit day
January 23, 2016
Andy Sullivan continued to display impressive form as he snatched the clubhouse lead at the weather-disrupted second round of the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Friday.
Early-morning fog at Abu Dhabi Golf Club reduced visibility to less than 50 yards and delayed the scheduled start of the second day's play by two hours and 45 minutes.
The delay meant that the afternoon session players could not complete their rounds, and that included the feature group of world number one Jordan Spieth, number three Rory McIlroy and number six Rickie Fowler.
Overnight leader, American amateur Bryson DeChambeau, will also have to come out early Saturday morning to complete his round.
The 29-year-old Sullivan added a second consecutive five-under par 67 to move to 10-under par 134 for the tournament, three shots better than Dutchman Joost Luiten (68) and Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello (67).
It was an eventful round for Sullivan, who started on the 10th tee with three birdies on the trot, and finished in a similar fashion. In between, he made another birdie on the first hole and two bogeys.
"Got off to a great start out there straightaway, putter was getting hot early doors and sort of lost my way in the middle there," said Sullivan, who was playing with the European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke.
"I started losing the ball left a little bit and was really happy with the fight back at the end. It puts me at the top of the leaderboard, which is great."
When play was finally suspended for the day, DeChambeau had just made a bogey on the ninth hole to be one-under par for the day and one shot behind leader Sullivan at nine-under par.
The group of Spieth, McIlroy and Fowler had finished playing 13 holes when the hooter went off. Spieth had dropped a shot by then to be on three-under par after making back-to-back bogeys on the fourth and fifth holes.
McIlroy could not make a single birdie and a bogey on ninth had dropped him to five-under par, while three birdies had lifted Fowler to the same score as the Northern Irishman.
The second round will now be completed starting 7.40am UAE time on Saturday morning and the third round will commence after that.
Round 1 - Bryson DeChambeau shines on debut
January 22, 2016
American amateur Bryson DeChambeau stole the limelight from golf's big guns Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy on his European Tour debut, seizing a first-round lead at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on Thursday.
The self-described “golfing scientist” sank seven birdies and an eagle in carding an eight-under par 64, a stroke clear of world number five Henrik Stenson and two ahead of four-time major winner Rory McIlroy. Top-ranked Jordan Spieth was two shots further back on 68.
“I had no expectations coming into today, free-wheeled it and pretty much hit every fairway and was able to make a couple putts,” said DeChambeau, 22.
Unusually, the flat-cap-wearing physics student uses clubs that are all the same length.
“It works pretty well. It helps me keep my same posture, same setup, same everything,” said the Californian.
“I'm trying to analyse and understand each and every aspect of the golf course and the way I played. I'll analyse today and see what I can do better tomorrow.”
McIlroy, 26, and Spieth, 22, played in a trio alongside world number six Rickie Fowler (70) that drew big crowds despite the near-dawn start.
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy started the stronger, picking up four birdies on the opening six holes in his first tournament since winning November’s DP World Tour Championship, but Spieth’s two late birdies kept the U.S. Masters champion in touch with the leaders.
“There's been times where it's taken me at least four or five days to find the middle of the clubface,” said McIlroy.
“There's been times where it's taken me a couple of hours and I'm right back into it. This time it was closer to the latter.”
Stenson, 39, had missed the cut in Abu Dhabi in each of the previous two years and was returning to competitive golf after knee surgery, but the amiable Swede showed few ill effects as he sank eight birdies between his fourth and 17th holes before bogeying the last.
“The challenge is walking 18 holes a day,” said Stenson. “It's a bit of a grind, especially for my foot, but [my] knee feels pretty good, and I’ve just got to try and pace myself.”
South Africa’s Branden Grace (66) is tied with McIlroy for third, English duo Andy Sullivan and Richard Bland made 67 and Spieth is one of five players on 68.
|T5||KOR||Byeong Hun An||-11||69||68||69||71||277|
|T14||ESP||Rafael Cabrera Bello||-9||70||67||70||72||279|
|T16||RSA||Trevor Fisher Jr.||-8||69||70||70||71||280|
|T26||SWE||Magnus A Carlsson||-6||71||72||72||67||282|
|T61||ESP||Eduardo De La Riva||-1||72||69||76||70||287|
|T61||POR||Ricardo Melo Gouveia||-1||72||71||72||72||287|
|T66||DEN||Morten Orum Madsen||Par||72||71||71||74||288|
|CUT||ARE||Ahmed Al Musharek||20||83||81||-||-||164|