Shane Lowry claims Abu Dhabi crown after day of high drama

Irish golfer lost lead to Richard Sterne before dramatic turnaround on back nine

 Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrates with caddie Brian “Bo” Martin on the 18th green after winning  the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrates with caddie Brian “Bo” Martin on the 18th green after winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

 

Shane Lowry rode a roller-coaster – at times hanging on for dear life – before brilliantly out-dueling South African Richard Sterne to end a three-and-a-half year winless drought on tour to win the Abu Dhabi Championship, a victory that opens the door for the 31-year-old Offaly man to earn a return invitation to the US Masters in April.

Lowry’s closing round 71 for a total of 18-under-par 280, which gave him a fourth career title and a one-stroke winning margin over Sterne. Having started with a three-shot lead, only to fall four behind through 11 holes of the final round, Lowry’s patience and, ultimately, some sublime play over the finishing holes enabled him to claim a win which earned him a payday of €1 million and moved him to the top of the Race to Dubai order of merit.

The win will also leapfrog Lowry up the world rankings, from a tournament starting position of 75th up to possibly 41st when the new rankings are announced on Monday. The significance of that upward movement is that it will move him inside the top-50 qualifying cut-offs off the world rankings for The Players’ Championship, in March, and the US Masters at Augusta National in April.

Lowry’s success will also earn him exemptions into the big-money WGCs, the Mexico Championship and the Dell Matchplay.

The Abu Dhabi Championship was only this season upgraded to one of the European Tour’s elite Rolex Series events, and Lowry’s win – one which showed fortitude and a never-say-die attitude – was celebrated with his wife Wendy and daughter Iris running on the 18th green for emotional hugs, while his caddie Brian “Bo” Martin, who only started working with the player last September, also played an influential calming role.

Lowry had prepared diligently for his season-opening appearance on tour, working with coach Neil Manchip and playing practice rounds – and sharing a house – with Paul Dunne in the run-up. But when things got tough in the final round, as Sterne covered the front nine in 31 shots to Lowry’s 36, it was his ability to trust himself that paid off.

Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrates with wife Wendy and daughter Iris on the 18th green after winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrates with wife Wendy and daughter Iris on the 18th green after winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

“I had great chats with my coach, Neil, this week about hanging in and staying in there no matter what I do and no matter what I shoot and what shots I hit, just keep going.” said Lowry.

“It definitely helped me out there today. People looking from the outside probably thought I was gone, four behind with seven to play, but I holed a couple of great putts on 12 and 13 and I knew I was in it then.

“I said to Bo walking down 16, I said: ‘I think three fours, 16, 17, 18 (the last few holes were playing quite difficult) and we could have a shout here’. Look, I’m over the moon. It’s been a long time, and yeah, I’m going to enjoy this one,” said Lowry, whose last win on tour came in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Akron in 2015.

Lowry’s up-and-down for a par save on the 17th – holing a 15-footer – was huge, and then he produced a tournament-winning 3-wood approach from 281 yards to find the green and two-putted for a closing birdie. Sterne, who missed the green right, was unable to match him.

“It’s just great, and to win wire-to-wire, obviously I’ve never done it before. To be in contention for that long, it takes a lot out of you. I’m going to need a couple of days [rest]. I’ll rest up after tomorrow and get ready for that.

“But look, I really want to enjoy this one because you never know when your next one is going to be. You look at Westy [Lee Westwood] and Danny Willett winning at the end of last year, and I think that it gives everyone hope because they are world-class players, but in this game, you just need to keep your head down and keep doing what you do and if you feel that you’re doing the right things, just keep at it,” said Lowry, who stays in the Middle East for next week’s Dubai Desert Classic.

FINAL LEADERBOARD
(British and Irish unless stated, par 72)

270 Shane Lowry 62 70 67 71

271 Richard Sterne (Rsa) 65 68 69 69

273 Joost Luiten (Ned) 69 68 71 65

274 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 65 68 75 66

275 Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 66 69 71 69

276 Paul Waring 70 67 70 69, Ian Poulter 66 69 69 72, Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) 65 72 68 71

277 Brooks Koepka (USA) 67 70 70 70, Tom Lewis 68 67 75 67

278 Dominic Foos (Ger) 68 68 72 70, David Horsey 71 66 71 70, Jordan Smith 72 66 70 70, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 68 71 72 67, Scott Jamieson 69 66 71 72

279 Jason Scrivener (Aus) 72 65 74 68, Dustin Johnson (USA) 69 71 72 67, Matt Wallace 70 68 71 70, David Lipsky (USA) 68 73 69 69, Thomas Pieters (Bel) 67 70 69 73, Lee Westwood 66 68 73 72

280 Adri Arnaus (Esp) 69 68 72 71, Maximilian Kieffer (Ger) 68 71 67 74, Thomas Bjorn (Den) 70 71 69 70, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 66 72 74 68, Matthias Schwab (Aut) 70 68 72 70

281 Scott Hend (Aus) 71 68 75 67, Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind) 70 70 69 72, Ryan Fox (Nzl) 69 70 70 72, Branden Grace (Rsa) 70 69 71 71, Benjamin Hebert (Fra) 68 71 69 73

282 Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 65 76 73 68, Alexander Bjork (Swe) 66 71 72 73, Jack Singh Brar 69 68 73 72, Darren Fichardt (Rsa) 73 68 69 72, James Morrison 69 69 75 69, Andy Sullivan 69 72 70 71, Sam Horsfield 69 71 74 68, Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry) 67 73 70 72, Gavin Green (Mal) 69 67 73 73, Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa) 70 69 73 70

283 Tommy Fleetwood 69 72 72 70, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 69 72 72 70, Grant Forrest 71 65 72 75, Justin Walters (Rsa) 70 69 72 72, Sam Brazel (Aus) 70 69 72 72, Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 70 68 73 72, Matthew Southgate 70 71 71 71

284 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) 71 70 72 71, Dean Burmester (Rsa) 71 69 73 71, Andres Romero (Arg) 70 70 73 71, Eddie Pepperell 70 68 72 74, Edoardo Molinari (Ita) 71 68 75 70

285 Ross Fisher 69 72 73 71, Jorge Campillo (Esp) 71 69 72 73, Callum Shinkwin 71 68 73 73, Renato Paratore (Ita) 71 70 72 72, Aaron Rai 68 70 76 71, Joachim B. Hansen (Den) 69 71 74 71, Lucas Herbert (Aus) 71 65 76 73, Victor Perez (Fra) 75 66 75 69, Bradley Dredge 70 68 74 73

286 Robert Macintyre 70 71 72 73, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra) 71 70 71 74

287 Thomas Detry (Bel) 72 67 76 72, Alvaro Quiros (Esp) 72 69 71 75

289 Kurt Kitayama (USA) 72 69 75 73, Alexander Levy (Fra) 69 71 74 75

290 Richie Ramsay 70 70 74 76

291 Zander Lombard (Rsa) 70 70 80 71

292 Nino Bertasio (Ita) 69 70 79 74

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