Tommy Fleetwood fought to a one-shot victory over Dustin Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on an incredibly tight final day on the European Tour.
The 27-year-old ended a wait of over 1000 days since his last tour win with a final round 67 to come out on top against an ever-interchanging trailing pack.
Fleetwood, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Martin Kaymer all took turns to lead and dominate the pack but it ultimately came down to a race between Fleetwood, Aphibarnrat and Larrazabal with a late eagle for Johnson making up ground.
The final, and 54-hole leading, group all lost their way early on. Tyrrell Hatton faltered to a 75, whilst Dustin Johnson fell back before making a brief late charge in vein.
Through eight holes Kaymer found himself with the outright lead, but three bogeys and no birdies from there on until the 18th scuppered the German’s chances.
Larrazabal, after falling back as well, cameoed with birdies on 12 and 14 to join the leaders, but lost a shot immediately on 15 and failed to fully recover.
Fleetwood found himself with the outright lead after the 12th as Aphibarnrat found the water and was forced to settle for a bogey. However, a spectacular drive on the next and a wedge to a few feet meant the Thai-star caught Fleetwood’s lead straight away.
World-numer-three Johnson continued to threaten and found himself within one shot of the lead on numerous occasions. A collection of missed opportunities and a dropped shot on the 15th, however, halted the American’s charge.
At the 16th Fleetwood sunk a 10-foot birdie putt to regain the solo lead at 16-under-par. Onto the 17th, Aphibarnat found the thick rough giving a chance for Fleetwood to make his lead two shots. Aphibarnrat’s approach found the edge of the green, whilst Fleetwood was left with roughly 20-foot, but a fantastic long-range putt ensured par and matching Fleetwood heading onto the last.
After struggling since a bogey on the 15th, Larrazabal did his utmost to keep the pressure on the leaders with a birdie on the 17th as Fleetwood and Aphibarnrat found themselves in trouble on the last. Fleetwood’s wayward drive left him playing from the rough, as Aphibarnrat shot too far in the other direction. A lighthearted joke with spectators prior, Fleetwood struck a 3-wood from the rough to the middle of the green to set himself up for a gained shot perfectly.
Aphibarnrat took a par and a birdie for Fleetwood meant only an eagle from Larrazabal in the group behind could realistically stop Fleetwood.
A waiting game ensued as Larrazabal headed to up the 18th with Johnson and Hatton. An erratic second shot on the par five 18th meant only a magnificent pitch-in would suffice; a pitch-in the Spaniard couldn’t manage, giving Fleetwood a career-changing victory.
A second European Tour win for Fleetwood, currently ranked 102nd in the world, should see him break the world’s top 50 and fire up the Race to Dubai rankings from 9th with Qatar next on the agenda.