Blogs & Opinion


Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: Ewen Murray reflects on the final round

Ewen Murray - Ewen Murray Posted 19th January 2014 view comments

After a dramatic Saturday in Abu Dhabi, the Sky Sports team arrived at the National course wondering what Sunday had in store.

All eyes were on Rory McIlroy after his two shot penalty for an incorrect drop during round three. How would Rory react? Other questions were, could Mickelson follow one good round with another? Or would Craig Lee defeat a stellar field and secure his maiden victory?

Pablo Larrazabal: Spaniard takes a liking to the Abu Dhabi trophy

Pablo Larrazabal: Spaniard takes a liking to the Abu Dhabi trophy

The final group teed off at 10am local time and it wasn't long before we had some changes. The overnight leader struggled over the opening few holes and after bogeys at 4 and 5, Lee had lost the lead. It was to be a tough day at the office for the 36-year-old Scot.

First out of the blocks was the highly talented Dutchman, Joast Luiten. He birdied, 1,2,3, and 4 and five pars had him out in 32. The irrepressible Miguel Angel Jimenez birdied three of the first six to move alongside him and they trailed Phil Mickelson and Raphael Cabrera Bello by one. With the leaders completing the first third of the round, 13 players were separated by just three shots.

At this point, Mickelson was looking the most comfortable hitting every fairway and finding the first six greens in regulation. Quite a contrast to the opening two rounds when he hit less than 50% of the fairways from the tee.

Rory birdied the second to get his own back on the par five that cost him a two shot penalty in round three. A wayward drive cost him a dropped shot at five, but he got that back with a sumptuous two at the seventh which took him to just one off the lead.

Like Craig Lee, looking for his maiden victory, South African, George Coetzee skipped to the turn in 33 to get within two and at this point you couldn't take your eyes off the leaderboard as it was ever changing.

Craig was failing to find any rhythm, but was doing what top professionals do fashioning fine pars despite being out of position at both the sixth and the seventh.

The next change came at the ninth when Cabrera-Bello dropped a shot. For the first time, Mickelson had the lead on his own. It lasted all of a minute. Rory followed his 2 at the seventh with a birdie at eight and the two highest ranking players shared the lead. A sponsors dream and the sizeable galleries had what they came to see. Larrazabal would birdie eight to join them.

Challengers fall

I've had the pleasure of watching some marvellous tournaments over the last twenty five years, but I couldn't remember so many changes happening so frequently. It was tournament golf at its best. Five minutes later, Mickelson took care of the par 5 eighth and once again he was looking down on the rest.

There are many sporting cliches used all too often, but the one,"it all happens on the back nine on Sunday" was never more apt as we headed for home.

One by one the challengers fell. Coetzee posted 12 under and Cabrera Bello matched it, which left Larrazabal, Rory and Phil to go head to head.

The telling moment came at the par four 13th. Mickelson had hit the first 12 greens in regulation only to hit his worst drive into a bush. Up ahead Pablo hit his 9 iron second to 12 inches. Phil, as one would expect went for broke. With the toe of the club turned the other way round, a right-handed effort saw the ball pop and hit the club again on the through swing. It ended in an ugly

seven. A four shot swing.

McIlroy was back in it, but could not force the necessary birdies over the closing stretch. Two sensational shots found the 18th and two putts later, Pablo had done enough. Three birdies in the last five left Mickelson one shot shy.

Rory of course will reflect on the two penalty shots for an incorrect drop in round 3. In the end, that was to prove costly, but he is back to somewhere very close to his best. He will never make that mistake again.

Success

The first event of three that make up the Desert Swing was once again a great success. If I was a player, outside of the Majors, these events would be the first to be penned in the diary. The Abu Dhabi golf course was a true test of every department of of the game and it comes as no surprise the pure ball strikers were up there at the death.

It was a thrilling week from start to finish. The new champion heads towards the world's top 50 and can look forward to the rewards that brings. Pablo beat the cream of the crop in Abu Dhabi and that, along with his third victory on the European Tour will give his confidence an enormous boost.

back to top

Other Golf Experts:

Latest Posts in Golf:

Rob Lee

In a decent State

Europe are Ryder Cup favourites, says Rob Lee, but Team USA have plenty of reasons to be optimistic....

Latest News RSS feeds

Ryder Cup 2014

Our dedicated microsite has all the build-up to golf's showpiece event at Gleneagles

McGinley: Too close to call

Paul McGinley says this week's Ryder Cup is too close to call having looked at the make-up of both teams.

Poulter: Stay positive

Ian Poulter believes it is the power of positive thinking that helps him perform at his peak in the Ryder Cup.

Watson: I've done my stats

Tom Watson has certainly done his stats ahead of the Ryder Cup which tees-off at Gleneagles on Friday morning.

Team USA arrive for Ryder Cup

Tom Watson’s American team arrive in Scotland ahead of Friday's Ryder Cup clash at Gleneagles.

Features

Ryder Cup 2014 build up: We look back at eventful 2010 contest at Celtic Manor

Ryder Cup 2014 build up: We look back at eventful 2010 contest at Celtic Manor

As Gleneagles prepares for the Ryder Cup they’ll be hoping for much better weather conditions than four years ago when the staff and management at Celtic Manor had to perform miracles to keep the event going as torrential rain stretched it into a historic fourth day.

Ryder Cup 2014: Send in your questions for Colin Montgomerie ahead of Gleneagles match

Ryder Cup 2014: Send in your questions for Colin Montgomerie ahead of Gleneagles match

Colin Montgomerie played in eight Ryder Cups and captained Europe to glory in 2010, so there is no-one better placed to answer YOUR questions on the prestigious event.

Sky Sports reviews the week in sport with the best and worst performances

Sky Sports reviews the week in sport with the best and worst performances

Another seven days of sport have offered up a gamut of emotions. As the dust settles, Sky Sports sifts through it all to bring you the heroes and villains of the past week.