Els Cruises to Victory in Dubai

By Sports NetworkMarch 10, 2002, 5:00 pm
Ernie Els shot a 3-under 69 in the final round to cruise to a four-shot victory at the Dubai Desert Classic Sunday. Els became the first two-time winner of this event with his 72-hole score of 16-under-par 272.
 
The South African has emerged from a winless 2001 on the European Tour to post two victories over the first months of the new season. Els has been active on the American circuit as well, outlasting Tiger Woods last week at the Genuity Championship for his first PGA Tour victory since 2000.
 
'I've had a great start to the season with my three wins and I'm really enjoying my golf,' said Els, who captured the Heineken Classic five weeks ago in Australia. 'There is no reason why I shouldn't go on from here to have a great year. Actually, it's already a great year, I just hope I can make it even better.'

 More from Els on his win

Els held a three-shot lead over Fasth at the start of the day and saw the margin shrink with a bogey at the first. He responded with back-to-back birdies from the second but added another bogey at the fourth. Meanwhile, Fasth had laid the foundation for a challenge with an eagle at the par-5 third.
 
The Swede tied Els with a birdie at the seventh before disaster struck on the following hole. Fasth hit his tee shot into a bush and his second shot found the desert. Two shots later he was on the green where he three-putted for a triple-bogey.
 
'I gave it a good effort but it wasn't to be,' said Fasth. 'It took me seven holes to catch him before the disaster on the eighth.'
 
With a new three-shot lead, Els added back-to-back birdies around the turn to climb to 15-under. Fasth managed a birdie at the 10th to move to minus-11 but he could not catch Els.
 
Fasth got to within two of the lead after back-to-back birdies from the 12th while Els was perfect on the back nine. The Big Easy coasted with five straight pars until a birdie at the 16th coupled with a bogey by Fasth at the same hole opened the lead to four.
 
Els parred the remaining two holes for the victory, his eighth overall on the European Tour. The 32-year-old notched his breakthrough victory on tour at this event in 1994.
 
This marked the first time Els has won back-to-back titles since he followed his 1997 U.S. Open victory with a win at the Buick Classic.
 
Fasth finished alone in second at 12-under 276, while fellow countryman Carl Pettersson was a shot further back at 11-under. Pettersson has been on a roll this year, although he hasn't reached the winner's circle. The 24-year-old has posted three top-five finishes.
 
'I really enjoyed my day out there and playing in the last groups,' said Pettersson. 'Obviously you get nervous but it is something I want to do more often. I feel my game gets better the closer I get to the top.'
 
Brian Davis posted a 5-under 67 to place fourth at 9-under 279. Fellow Englishman Gary Evans (68) was joined by second-round leader Charlie Wi (69) of Korea two shots further back at 7-under 281.
 
A group of five players were at 6-under 282, including Darren Clarke (69). He was joined by Scotland's Andrew Oldcorn (72), Simon Dyson (70) of England, Sweden's Mathias Gronberg (69) and Bradley Dredge (69) of Wales.
 
European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance was part of a larger group at 5-under 283 that included Michael Hoey, the low amateur in the field.
 
Defending champion Thomas Bjorn closed with a 1-over 73 to finish in a tie for 20th at 4-under 284.
 
Full field scores from the Dubai Desert Classic

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

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.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


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.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

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.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


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.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

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.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


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.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

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.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


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.