Hot back nine lands Fleetwood fresh title

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his 2018 debut

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his 2018 debut

Tommy Fleetwood successfully defended his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title on Sunday after a sensational back nine to clinch the win.

The par-five 10th hole proved to be a turning point for both players as Fleetwood posted a birdie and Fisher dropped his first shot of the day following a wayward tee shot.

"This means so much to me", said Fleetwood, the European Tour's Race to Dubai victor a year ago who at 27 is trying to establish that 2017 was the rule, not the exception.

Rory McIlroy may have been something of a forgotten man during his injury-riddled 2017 season, but the fit and self-assured golfer who kicked off his 2018 season with a robust T3 finish in the Middle East has a message for his peers: I'm back, baby.

The European No.1 had started the day two shots back from overnight leaders Fisher and Thomas Pieters.

"My best golf is getting better and better and my worse golf is getting better as well".

"It's just a matter of dust myself off and, looking back on this week, I think it's been a huge success for me, even though I didn't win today".

Johnson (70) finished on 14-under par this year, while former world No1 Rory McIlroy shot a 70 to tie for third place at 18-under par alongside Matthew Fitzpatrick (69). Shubhankar shot 72 after rounds of 71-70-70 on the first three days for a total of five-under 283.

"It was pretty good on that back nine really", said Fleetwood. So, all the practise has been very good.

His game has been largely ideal, he looks nearly like the player of old, but Rory McIlory admits a first win in 16 months - and at a venue where he's been oh so close, so many times - would build confidence hugely for the rest of 2018.

Fleetwood, who celebrated his 27 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.

The four-time Major winner's challenge for a first title in more than a year faded after the turn with a run of seven pars and a bogey.

"A lot of really good shots and then finished poorly", the Belgian said.

"Where I've come from the last three months just in terms of my health and my golf, I'm in a much better place now than when I left the game for a little bit in October", he said. My game is in really good shape and I saw some really, really positive signs.

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