Ross Fisher admitted there was little he could do to prevent Tommy Fleetwood winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA after being pipped by his fellow Englishman.
Fisher was five shots clear of Fleetwood at one stage during the final round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, but saw his EurAsia Cup team-mate storm home in 30 to secure a two-shot victory.
“Obviously you're going to face a very tough and tricky day,” said Fisher, who finished second after signing for a 69.
“The wind was blowing. Greens were getting firmer and faster. And then you've only got to look at the quality of the leaderboard, playing with Thomas (Pieters), you had Fleet just in front with Rory (McIlroy), Fitzy (Matt Fitzpatrick), and you never knew, someone from even earlier could have shot a really low one.
“It was always going to be tricky. To get out four under par, was flying and in control. Unfortunately hit a poor tee shot on ten but managed to salvage a great six in the end holing a 20-25 footer there, and felt like I was hitting good shots but it was just very tricky to get close to the pins.
“Seven under is a great score. Obviously four under after nine, I wouldn't say cruising, but I was in control of my game. I think I might have been a couple ahead maybe, so I figured, right, I need to knuckle down and play a good, solid back nine, and unfortunately wasn't quite as solid.
“Hats off to Tommy. I don't feel like I've lost a tournament. Tommy's gone out there and shot 65 and he's won it, so all credit to Tommy.”
McIlroy eventually finished third, and the Northern Irishman was thrilled to be in contention in his first event since October, having taken some time out in order to allow a rib injury to heal.
“I'm really happy with how I played,” he said. “It could have been a little bit better today. I was a little bit scrappy but the conditions sort of, I felt like shooting anything in the 60s would have been a good score. I didn't quite do that; I shot 70.
“Overall, I'm really happy how I played this week. My game is in really good shape and I saw some really, really positive signs. So I'm looking forward to next week in Dubai and obviously looking forward to the rest of the season.”
McIlroy also paid tribute to Fleetwood after the Race to Dubai champion successfully defended his title.
“It's incredible,” he added. “He had a great year last year, won the Race to Dubai, number one in Europe and then to just keep going. This week, defending champion, to put that round of golf together out there today, I mean, 65 in those conditions is seriously impressive.
“He's a great addition to the world of golf, a great addition to the European Tour and will be a great addition to the Ryder Cup team in September.”