Rickie Fowler fought off a late charge from Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters to win the Abu Dhabi Championship by one stroke on 24 January, and land his fourth title in eight months. The American's latest victory will propel him to fourth in the world rankings after topping a stellar field including four-time major winner McIlroy and Henrik Stenson, who finished equal third, and world number one Jordan Spieth, who was fifth.
Fowler shot a final round 69 for a 16-under 272 to pip Belgian runner-up Pieters and he can thank two magical chips for his latest triumph. The first was a 30-yard sand-wedge for an eagle on the eighth which made amends for a double-bogey a hole earlier while a low chip in for a birdie from just off the 17th green put him decisively clear. Pieters went round in 67 but his 25-foot eagle attempt at the last stopped three inches short to deny the world number 88 a play-off.
"This was a big one," said Fowler. "Last year, obviously, having a multiple-win season, but to come back and work on getting back in the winner's circle after a successful season. Keep moving forward, and this was a great start and a great field that HSBC has helped put together here. The course was in perfect shape, it was a lot of fun today. It was a bit stressful at times. Thomas [Pieters] was playing well, it was fun to go head to head with him in the same group. We had a good time and it is just nice to come out on top this week."
Fowler picked up two late shots to end the fog-interrupted third round on 24 January with a 65 which put him two strokes clear going into the afternoon's final round. He recorded birdies on the first two holes, his shot from the first fairway having been greeted by the Muslim call to prayer that floated across the National course from surrounding mosques. That extended his lead to four before the double-bogey caused a three-stoke swing against him. Fowler, as always dressed in his final round orange shirt, made immediate amends, however, raising his finger to the sky in celebration after the bunker eagle.
"When something happens like that, it definitely gives you a little boost in confidence, knowing that you got a good break with that after getting a bad break," he said. "And sometimes you need to have a little luck on your side to get a win."