Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA
Abu Dhabi GC, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 16 Jan 2019 - 19 Jan 2019
Saturday, 19 January 2019
Shane Lowry  (Getty Images)
Shane Lowry (Getty Images)

Shane Lowry kicked off 2019 with a wonderful wire-to-wire victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA after coming out on top in a thrilling final-round battle with Richard Sterne.

The Irishman closed his final-round 71 with a crucial birdie to win by a single shot and secure his fourth European Tour title - but he did not have it all his own way on Saturday.

Lowry entered the day with a commanding three-shot lead but found himself four strokes behind Sterne after carding four bogeys and two birdies in his first 11 holes.

The 31 year old rallied, though, firing back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th and after Sterne dropped a couple of shots coming down the stretch, Lowry made another gain at the 18th to get to 18 under par and clinch his first trophy since the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Dutchman Joost Luiten was alone in third on 15 under after producing two eagles in his final-round 65.

Lowry began the final round in pole position after posting rounds of 62, 70 and 67 on the opening three days. 

Sterne got off to a lightning-quick start, though, making birdies at the first three holes to join Lowry at the top of the leaderboard.

Lowry regained the outright lead after sending his tee-shot to within three feet of the cup at the short fourth before tapping in for a birdie to get to 18 under.

But there was a two-shot swing at the fifth as Sterne chipped in from just off the green for a birdie and Lowry missed his par putt to hand a one-shot advantage to his opponent.

Sterne was not in front for long, though, as he three-putted on the sixth green to drop his first shot of the day and Lowry made his par putt to remain at 17 under.

But six-time European Tour winner Sterne bounced back with a birdie at the eighth before another two-shot swing at the ninth put him three strokes ahead after Lowry knocked his tee-shot into the water.

And when Lowry missed his par putt at the 11th, Sterne found himself four shots clear at the top.

But the pendulum swung back Lowry's way as he notched a birdie at the short 12th - his 11th two at a par-three hole this week - before holing from 20 feet for another gain at the 13th to close the gap to two shots.

The outlook was even brighter for Lowry when Sterne missed his five-foot par putt at the 14th to slip back to 18 under.

And Lowry earned a share of the lead when he safely parred the 16th to remain at 17 under and Sterne failed to hole his tricky par putt from the fringe.

Both players made impressive up-and-downs at the 17th to stay in front, with Lowry nervelessly holing from 12 feet after Sterne had already made his par.

Lowry won it at the last after tapping in his close-range birdie putt to earn his first Rolex Series title.

A delighted Lowry said: "It was an emotional roller coaster today. 

"I obviously went out with the lead by a few and before I knew it I was four behind. 

"I was brave out there today. I ground it out well and I'm over the moon.

"I'm just so grateful that I've won this and I'm so happy and I'm going to really enjoy it because you just don't know when it's going to happen again.

"It's nice to have a star beside my name and to win a Rolex Series event. We are very lucky to be able to play Rolex events on The European Tour. They have done a great job putting these events together and I'm just over the moon to have one of them."

Sterne was pleased with his performance despite being unable to end his wait for a seventh title.

He said: "I'm just glad that I gave a good performance this week with a strong field. 

"It's been a while since I've had a decent tournament, so I'm pretty happy with the way I performed. 

"Thanks to Abu Dhabi and HSBC for putting on a magnificent event, and Rolex, as well. I appreciate it." 

A Rolex Series Event

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1LOWRY, ShaneIRL18-18
2STERNE, RichardRSA18-17
3LUITEN, JoostNED18-15
5KJELDSEN, SørenDEN18-13
T6WARING, PaulENG18-12

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