Sunday, 24 January 2016
Rickie Fowler  (Getty Images)
Rickie Fowler (Getty Images)

Rickie Fowler opened up a three-shot lead in dramatic fashion as the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship reached its closing stages on Sunday.

The World Number Six held a two-shot lead after 54 holes and had extended that to four at one stage before a double bogey on the seventh all of a sudden saw him just one clear at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

But the 27 year old responded brilliantly, holing from a bunker on the par five eighth for an eagle to give himself some breathing space at 15 under at the turn.

Three birdies from the 11th had moved Thomas Bjørn to 12 under alongside Alejandro Cañizares and Thomas Pieters with Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter four shots behind the leader.

A win for Fowler would be his second on The European Tour while veteran Dane Bjørn is seeking the perfect start to the season after not recording a top ten in 2015 for just the second time in his career.

Stenson made a positive start as he rolled in a 20-footer on the first for birdie and Poulter, playing in the group behind, also made a gain on the par four as both men moved to ten under.

Rory McIlroy put his tee shot on the first in the bunker and when his second over the back was followed by a poor chip, he signed for a bogey with Peter Hanson dropping to seven under with a double.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello got to ten under as he took advantage of the par five second  but that got him no nearer the lead as Fowler drained a 15-footer on the first to get to 14 under and extend his advantage to three.

Poulter made it a birdie-birdie start after an excellent pitch to get into a share of second and Branden Grace joined him there with a gain on the second after nearly holing a bunker shot.

But Fowler had a birdie-birdie start of his own as he made another 15-foot effort on the second to extend his lead to four and things were looking ominous for the rest of the field.

Poulter looked determined to keep pace, however, and after parring the third he holed a lengthy birdie putt on the next to get to 12 under while McIlroy got back to double figures from similar range.

The Spanish duo of Cañizares and Cabrera-Bello had birdied the second and fifth and when the former added a birdie on the eighth, they were both 11 under.

Bjørn had birdies on the fourth and eighth to get to ten under but Stenson dropped out of that group as he gave a shot back on the seventh.

He got it straight back on the eighth, however, and was joined in a share of third by Grace, who found the water on the seventh, and Cabrera-Bello who dropped a shot on the ninth.

Poulter missed a short putt to bogey the par five eighth but the drama was back on the seventh as Fowler recorded a double bogey.

It looked like he had got a stroke of luck as he avoided the water off the tee but he flew his shot from a waste area over the green and then needed two putts to drop to 13 under.

Luiten bogeyed the same hole to drop back and when Cañizares holed a long putt from the fringe on the tenth, the gap was just one shot.

Fowler bounced straight back. Just when it looked like the pack were closing in, he holed his third shot on the par five eighth out of a bunker to get the two shots straight back and open up a three-shot cushion.

Pieters followed Fowler in for a birdie to sit alongside Cañizares while Bjørn had three in a row to also get to 12 under after a bogey on the tenth.

A Stenson birdie on the 11th then got him to 11 under, one shot clear of Cabrera-Bello, Grace, Shiv Kapur, Luiten, McIlroy, Marcel Siem and World Number One Jordan Speith, who had a trio of birdies from the 12th.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1FOWLER, RickieUSA18-16
2PIETERS, ThomasBEL18-15
T3STENSON, HenrikSWE18-14
T5SIEM, MarcelGER18-11
T5SPIETH, JordanUSA18-11

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