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The debrief: Dubai Invitational 

The debrief: Dubai Invitational 

There was drama aplenty as a new year on the DP World Tour began in thrilling fashion with the inaugural Dubai Invitational. Here is everything you need to know.

That winning feeling for Fleetwood

After making the long journey from Hawaii to Dubai, where he now calls home, Tommy Fleetwood expressed his desire to convert his consistent form into more wins.

Well, it didn’t take him long to fulfil on that intent as he produced a birdie-birdie finish to win the Dubai Invitational at Dubai Creek Resort.

Having held a one-shot lead heading into the final round, Fleetwood moved three clear of playing partner Rory McIlroy after the tenth, only for the Northern Irishman to reel off three birdies in a row from the 11th.

After dropping out of the lead for the first time on the final day with a bogey at the 16th, Fleetwood produced under pressure in the final stages to seal a first victory since late 2022.

In holding off the challenge of Ryder Cup team-mate McIlroy and a fast-finishing Thriston Lawrence, the Englishman claimed his seventh DP World Tour title.

REPORT: Fleetwood wins Dubai Invitational in dramatic finish

“Challenging yourself against those guys… Rory's been a very, very supportive influence on me since we've been close. I've watched him do amazing things down the stretch in golf tournaments and today was my turn.”

“It's always very special when you play with one of your friends, one of the best players in the world,” said Fleetwood on the manner of his victory.

It was his third professional victory in the United Arab Emirates following back-to-back Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship titles in 2017 and 2018.

A first win since the 2022 Nedbank Golf Challenge also moves Fleetwood to the top of the International Swing Rankings, to fourth in the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex and 11th in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Having ended 2023 with a runner-up finish at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, Fleetwood is full of confidence for what’s to come. “This is obviously where I live and have a lot of support,” the 32-year-old said. “It's great to kick off the year with a great result and (hopefully) push on from here.”

McIlroy happy with first week back but left to rue ‘sloppy mistakes’

While Fleetwood made his first appearance of the year on the PGA TOUR last week, everyone else in the 60-strong field of professionals was teeing it up for the first time in Dubai.

McIlroy led after a flawless 62 in the first round, before maintaining his two-shot lead at the halfway stage despite a quadruple bogey on a par three.

While he lost his advantage through 54 holes, the stage was set for a duel in the desert between ‘FleetwoodMac’, the two top-ranked players in the field.

Despite making seven birdies on the final day, McIlroy came up one short after matching Fleetwood’s four-under 67 to finish tied second with South Africa’s Lawrence, who shot 64, on 18 under.

McIlroy found water twice on Sunday, off the sixth and pivotally the 18th, while he also had a three-putt from two feet sandwiched between at the 14th.

Despite missing out on a 17th DP World Tour title, the four-time Major Champion was focusing on the positives ahead of the defence of his Hero Dubai Desert Classic title this week.

“I think for the first week back out, it was a really positive week,” he said. “Looking back on today [Sunday], a tee shot in the water with an iron on the front nine, had that three-putt from three feet on the par 3, and then the water ball on the last.

“I think you're going to expect some of those sloppy mistakes, and unfortunately for me, those mistakes came at the wrong time today. I'll reflect on it and learn… and there's still a lot of good stuff in there.”

Lawrence continues excellent start to season

While Fleetwood and McIlroy shared the majority of the on-course headlines at Dubai Creek, the performance of Lawrence was one to be impressed by too.

The South African, already a four-time winner on the DP World Tour at 27, began the final round four shots adrift of 54-hole leader Fleetwood but threatened to emerge as an unlikely winner.

However, his blemish-free 64 helped him finish in a share of second on the leaderboard and continue his fine start to the 2024 Race to Dubai.

In his first five starts of the season he has finished no worse than a tie for 11th and sits sixth on the rankings heading into the first Rolex Series event of the year.

Thriston Lawrence-1932366895
Thriston Lawrence narrowly missed out on his fifth DP World Tour title

Ali Fatourechi takes team honours

The curtain-raiser to 2024 on the DP World Tour featured a new format, with the 60 professionals joined by 60 amateurs, who played a three-day team Pro-Am.

The 54-hole competition concluded on Saturday, with Ali Fatourechi claiming the title at 24 under, boosted by partner Fleetwood’s 63 on Saturday.

Tournament host Abdulla Al Naboodah, and McIlroy's partner from Thursday and Saturday, finished on the same total but lost out on final-round score.

"It's amazing," said Fatourechi. "Of course, it came to a card-off, we tied, and fortunately Tommy really came in. You just realise (professionals) play a different game.

“They're so good to watch. It makes you feel so comfortable as an amateur. You're so freed up because they're putting for birdie pretty much all the time. So it's great."

Winther keeps the party going

We might just be one event into the new year, but Jeff Winther might have already given one of the best interviews of 2024.

Following a second-round 66, the characterful Dane expressed his surprise at being in contention at the halfway stage given he hadn’t played since the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open and also that last weekend was spent celebrating his wife’s 40th birthday.

“This was actually just a warm-up for me,” said DP World Tour winner Winther, ahead of the Dubai Desert Classic.

“First ball I hit was here on Monday. Quite hungover, so I'm very, very pleased. Came from a massive 40th - my wife just turned 40. So, we had a massive party on Friday and I didn't feel well until Wednesday."

Shots of the week

While many will have been back playing competition golf for the first time in a little while, it didn’t take them long to showcase their quality at the first of back-to-back events in Dubai.

Pick your favourite from this five-strong shortlist.

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