Tommy Fleetwood continues upward march with successful Abu Dhabi title defence

Aubrey Yates
January 22, 2018

Belgium's Ryder Cup sensation Thomas Pieters' bogey-free 65 made him the man of the moment as he soared to the top of the leaderboard in round two of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA. And it was so important for me to start the season well, because everyone knows I had the year of my life in 2017. He had started the day with an eagle on the par five second, and was out in 32.

McIlroy's 70 meant a share of third with Matt Fitzpatrick (69) at 18 under. I just felt really good this week. "The difference is all in the putts. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots". "I haven't been looking at leaderboards too much, just been trying to play my game, and it's going pretty well so far, so I'll try and do the same thing".

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8-under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

"So it was sort of important to look at it that way; that maybe try and prove as if you were hurt and you had not had that whole euphoria of achieving something wonderful in your career. To sort of validate your position as the Player of the Year so early on is really satisfying in a way".

The Race to Dubai champion of past year secured a third tournament victory since the start of 2017 in a style that epitomised his stunning rise.

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"Felt like I did everything I wanted to do", said McIlroy, who recorded his eighth top-five finish in the tournament in last nine starts.

"Hats off to Tommy", Fisher said.

"The way Tommy is progressing, and the style he won in, bodes well for him and the rest of Europe". I just really wanted to win this one.

Fleetwood began the week singing the praises of playing partners McIlroy and world No 1 Johnson - and went on to outscore both of them over 36 holes.

"But to see how I've played over the past three days and how comfortable I've been out there hitting certain shots and scoring and getting up-and-down, and just really getting my golf head back on". I don't feel like I've lost a tournament.

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