Fleetwood rides a strong finish as Rory falters at the finish in Dubai -
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Fleetwood rides a strong finish as Rory falters at the finish in Dubai

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DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – JANUARY 14: Tommy Fleetwood of England poses with the trophy after winning the Dubai Invitational at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club on January 14, 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images).

From V Krishnaswamy

Dubai: A two-shot swing right at the end of the tournament on the 72nd hole saw Tommy Fleetwood edge aside World No. 2 Rory McIlroy to win the inaugural Dubai Invitational by one shot. Standing at the 18th together, McIlroy at 19-under was one shot ahead of Fleetwood at 18-under.

Things changed quickly as McIlroy hit his drive into the water, took a penalty and came out with a bogey. Fleetwood meanwhile holed a superb 16-footer for birdie to make a two-shot swing in his favour and pick his third win in the Middle East. He has won twice in the past in Abu Dhabi.

McIlroy was tied second at 18-under alongside South African Thriston Lawrence, who finished before them.

Fleetwood started the final day at Dubai Creek Resort with a one-shot lead. over Ryder Cup team mate McIlroy. Fleetwood stayed consistent, but lost the lead for the first time with a bogey on the 16th.

McIlroy was one behind at the start and became two behind after the front nine. When Fleetwood birdied the 10th, the gap was three. Then McIlroy made the charge with three birdies in a row. A bogey followed on 14th, when McIlroy three-putted from close but he recovered with a birdie on 15th. Fleetwood gave back a shot on 16th and fell to 17-under as McIlroy was in lead at 18-under.

Both Fleetwood and McIlroy birdied the 17th which kept the Northern Ireland player one ahead. Then came the bogey for McIlroy and birdie for Fleetwood, who won the trophy.

South African Lawrence finished alongside McIlroy at 18 under, two clear of England’s Jordan Smith and three ahead of 2018 Open Champion Francesco Molinari. American Sean Crocker and in-form South African Zander Lombard was at 14 under, with Dane Thorbjørn Olesen and German Yannik Paul two shots further back.

The victory is Fleetwood’s third in the United Arab Emirates after claiming two wins in Abu Dhabi and follows a second-place finish at the 2023 season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

A first win since the 2022 Nedbank Golf Challenge also moves Fleetwood to the top of the International Swing Rankings, to fourth in the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex and could take him as high as 11th in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I’m very happy,” said Dubai resident Fleetwood. “It was amazing winning. Like almost everybody else in the world of golf, I don’t win anywhere near as much as I would like to but just that winning feeling great.

“This is obviously where I live and have a lot of support. It’s great to kick off the year with a great result and push on from here.

“I feel like I’ve been saying for a long time that I’ve been doing a lot of really great things. I have amazing people that I’m working with, win, lose or draw today. Next week will be the same. We just crack on and we keep pushing forward and hopefully keep moving in the right direction.

“I was very happy with the way I played today for the large majority of the round, felt like I didn’t hole some of the putts that I wanted to.

“I just stayed patient and kept playing. I knew I was playing very, very well, and even the last two holes, played 17 and 18 great.”

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