Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: Thomas Pieters claims Rolex Series win after thrilling final day
Pieters finished on 10 under and a shot clear of Rafa Cabrera Bello and Shubhankar Sharma, giving the Belgian his first Rolex Series title; Viktor Hovland claims a share of third and Rory McIlroy ends the week tied-12th
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 24/01/22 6:08am
Thomas Pieters made a winning start to 2022 with a one-shot victory after a thrilling final round at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Pieters carded a final-round 72 in testing conditions at Yas Links to hold off a strong chasing pack and secure a sixth DP World Tour title, with the win his first in a Rolex Series event.
The Belgian, who will move back inside the world's top 50 and could jump as high as 31st, ended the week on 10 under and a shot clear of both Rafa Cabrera Bello and Shubhankar Sharma.
Victor Dubuisson finished tied-fourth alongside Viktor Hovland, who posted a level-par 72 despite carding a double-bogey and triple-bogey in his round, with defending champion Tyrrell Hatton three back in the group tied-sixth and Rory McIlroy in a share of 12th after a three-under 69.
How Pieters prevailed in Abu Dhabi
A par on the opening hole was enough for Pieters to move into a share of the lead when overnight leader Scott Jamieson made bogey, with the Belgian adding pars over his next six holes before making a close-range birdie at the eighth to move into a three-shot advantage.
Pieters squandered a birdie opportunity at the 10th and three-putted from inside 10 feet at the 11th, cutting his advantage to one, with Cabrera Bello following a front-nine 34 by birdieing the par-four 14th to briefly move into a share of the lead.
Cabrera Bello made back-to-back bogeys from the 15th to fall two behind but joined Sharma in birdieing the par-five last to set the clubhouse target at nine under, only for Pieters to show composure to par his last seven holes and hold on for victory.
"I feel like I've turned the corner and am playing really good golf," Pieters said. "I'm really in control of my ball flight and it's nice to feel like that and making putts as well. My putting has improved massively and I felt like that's the thing that really kept me going on the weekend.
"Winning a Rolex Series, it's as good as it gets in Europe I guess. Hopefully this lists me, I'm not sure where, but I want to play all of the big tournaments and hopefully this gets me close. As a golfer, top-50 is your strive point, and when I jumped out maybe three years ago, I took it badly but happy to be back again."
Sunday hopefuls slip away
McIlroy made a final-round charge to push for an elusive Rolex Series win, holing out for eagle from the ninth fairway and making three birdies in a four-hole stretch to get within three of the lead, only to make two late bogeys and sign for a three-under 69.
Hovland had recovered from triple-bogeying his third hole of the day to birdie the fifth, eagle the par-five seventh and pick up a shot at the 11th, taking him within one of the lead, only to see his hopes fade with a double-bogey at the par-four 15th.
The Norweigan birdied the par-five last to sit on eight under alongside Dubuisson, who mixed four birdies with a lone bogey, while James Morrison was also temporarily just one off the pace until back-to-back bogeys from the 14th took him back to seven under.
Adam Scott was briefly in contention but bogeyed two of his last four holes to slip to tied-10th alongside Jamieson, who joined Shane Lowry - who triple-bogeyed his opening hole - in carding a five-over 77.
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