Montys Streak Still Alive in Spain
On a day when a little wind made the beautiful but tricky golf course at Valdarrama a player's nightmare, front-runner Angel Cabrera's dream of running away with the title was all but dashed.
Bradley Dredge birdied both the 17th and 18th holes to briefly join Cabrera at the top at 3-under, and then watched as Cabrera bogeyed the final hole to give Dredge sole-possessin of the 54-hole lead in the Volvo Masters.
'I am really looking forward to tomorrow. It will be great,' said Dredge. 'I've had a lot of top-10s this year but I haven't really been in contention as many times as I would have like.'
Cabrera, who at one point in the tournament held a commanding seven-stroke advantage, posted a 5-over-par 76 and is now a shot back of Dredge, who carded his second straight even-par 71.
Dredge, who's best finish is second place at last year's Italian Open, leads the resurgent Colin Montgomerie by a stroke as they head into Sunday's final round.
Trying to keep his streak of at least one win a season going - a victory would make it 10 consecutive years - Montgomerie carded a 1-over 72 and, thanks mainly to Cabrera, his chance to continue the streak is very much alive.
'I was four behind overnight and now I'm only one behind. That's fine,' said Montgomerie, who won this title in 1993. 'I like those conditions. Every shot is a challenge. Every shot is a potential disaster. You can't relax. To me this is proper golf. I enjoy it a lot more than shooting 26-under to win.'
England's Justin Rose had four birdies, three bogeys and an triple bogey for a 2-over 73, but is only three off the pace.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia is somehow still in the mix despite posting a quadruple-bogey-9 on the par-5 fourth. He was, however, able to get a couple birdies on his inward nine to finish at 4-over for the day and plus-1 for the tournament.
The ageless Bernhard Langer was about to find himself in the final grouping on Sunday but a pair of late bogeys brought him back. He ended with a 1-over 72 and in a tie for fifth with Garcia.
The Order of Merit race between Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington will come down to the last day of the season, as the two are separated by a single stroke.
Neither of the two have played anywhere near their normal level of play as Harrington is in a tie for 43rd at 11-over par, while Goosen is a shot back at 12-over.
'I would obviously need to improve substantially tomorrow,' said Harrington, who trails Goosen by a little more the $23,000. 'You never know. It's a different day and we will see. Neither of us has played well, but it's still possible that I can do it.'
'If he beats me then I will tip my hat to him and say well done,' said Goosen, the 2001 Order of Merit champion. 'If I win it, then I'll consider myself lucky to win it.'
Full-field scores from the Volvo Masters
Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore
Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.
Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.
There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.
Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.
The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.
Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again
Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.
Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.
It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.
Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.
While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.
McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call
Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.
Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.
The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.
McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.
McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.
Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title
The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.
Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.
Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.
Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.
Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.