Rickie Fowler produced two moments of magic to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Sunday and climb to fourth in the world rankings.
After completing a flawless 65 in the delayed third round on Sunday morning, Fowler carded a closing 69 to finish a shot ahead of Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, with Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson a shot further back in third.
Fowler took a two-shot lead into the final round and looked firmly on course for victory when he birdied the first two holes to double his advantage, only to run up a double bogey on the seventh after thinning his second shot from a sandy waste area across the green.
Moments later, Spain’s Alejandro Canizares holed from 25 feet for birdie on the 10th to cut Fowler’s lead to a single shot, only for Fowler to hole out from a greenside bunker on the par-five eighth for an eagle.
A run of eight straight pars allowed the chasing pack, led initially by playing partner Pieters to get within a shot, with Stenson then carding three birdies in the last four holes and McIlroy playing his last seven holes in five under, including an eagle from 35 feet on the last.
However, Fowler responded by chipping in for a birdie on the 17th to take a two-shot lead up the 18th, the 27-year-old then breathing a massive sigh of relief when Pieters agonisingly missed his eagle attempt to potentially force a play-off.
That left Fowler to two-putt for par and claim his second European Tour title after his victory in the Scottish Open at Gullane last July, with world number one Jordan Spieth finishing joint fifth after carding his third 68 of the week.
Fowler had been somewhat overshadowed when playing alongside McIlroy and Spieth in the first two rounds, but admitted their presence this week made the victory all the sweeter.
“It does,” the 27-year-old said after being presented with the trophy. “We had a very strong field and not just Rory and Jordan, but also Henrik and down the line. It was a packed leaderboard at the top.
“It feels great to come here and win my first full-field event of 26. This is a great way to start and a step in the right direction.”