A new year with new season goals but sadly the same old disappointment for Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy stumbled his way to final round 72 and 13-under par on Sunday to finish a distant five shots behind Englishman Tyrrell Hatton.
So much for Hatton’s newfound ‘Angry Golfers’ social media image as he became Europe’s happiest golfer winning at ease by four shots thanks to a closing 66 for an 18-under par tally on the National course in the Abu Dhabi capital. Hatton, 29, captured his 10th pro career title and jumps to No. 5 in the world, keeping McIlroy at No. 6 for now.
“It’s surreal to be honest, even knocking the putt on 18 to win it doesn’t seem like I’ve won the tournament,” said Hatton. “It’s amazing as I always love starting my season in Abu Dhabi and to know have my name added to the trophy with so many other champions before me is a huge honour.”
Jason Scrivener celebrated Australia Day two days early with easily the biggest prize cheque of his pro career storming home with a 10th hole eagle and five birdies for a closing 29 and a score of 66 to grab second place on 14-under par.
McIlroy was a distant third at 13-under and only one of two players inside the top-10, the other being two-time former Abu Dhabi champion Tommy Fleetwood, not to break 70 over the final round. McIlroy’s finish is now the eighth occasion in 11 Abu Dhabi appearances he’s left the UAE capital with a top-three finish. It’s also now been 448-days and 19 events, both on the PGA and European Tours, since McIlroy last tasted success in the Far East.
McIlroy went into the last day of his first event of the year leading by a shot at 13-under par and after back-to-back opening birdies, he elbowed his way to a two-shot leading cushion. He headed to the fourth hole, and for all intents and purposes, McIlroy looked like he was going to shoot something like a 66 and toast a runaway success.
However, it all turned pear-shaped with a first three-putt of the week at the fourth leading to the eighth dropped shot of his week. McIlroy then bogeyed the eighth after a wild drive left, opening the door for Hatton with the Englishman needing no invitation to go through it.
McIlroy said: “I played the opening three holes well today but I felt there were a few putts where the wind affected the ball maybe more than the last couple of days.
“That was the case on four with the three-putt while the bogeys around the turn didn’t help as I was in good position on 10 and Tyrrell was outside of me making his putt for birdie and I missed my putt for eagle. That was a huge momentum keeper for him while I bogeyed the next, and then it was just hard to get back into it. I don’t feel as though I played great this week, as I was sort of managing my game but it was nice to get a competitive week under my belt and know where my game is and what I have to do to keep on improving.”
As for the positives he’ll take now to the US West Coast for Thursday’s starting Farmers Insurance Open, he said: “I felt for the most part of the week my short-game and my putting was pretty good. I scrambled well and had some pretty good approach shots, especially last night coming down the last few holes.
“There were parts of rounds where I got the driver going a little bit but there is sometimes where I will have a few holes like that and others when it gets away from me, so just a little more consistency and being able to replicate the good shots hole-after-hole and day-after-day, so that I can put four rounds together.”
- Full scoring HERE