Belgium's Pieters wins Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship title

Thomas Pieters of Belgium kisses the trophy after winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. (AFP)
Thomas Pieters of Belgium kisses the trophy after winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. (AFP)

India's Shubhankar Sharma (71) and Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello (70) were tied second one shot behind Pieters

By Joy Chakravarty

Published: Sun 23 Jan 2022, 8:04 PM

On a day when everyone around him kept slipping, Belgium’s Thomas Pieters stood like a rock. An even par round of 72 may not reveal how well he played on a golf course that was becoming spiteful by the minute, but it won him the $8 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

It was Pieters’ sixth win on the DP World Tour, and second in his last three starts. The man who turns 30 on Thursday, will have plenty to celebrate. He will rise to world No31 – inside the all-important top-50 that gets players automatic entry into major championships – and collected a whopping cheque of $1.36 million (AED 5 million).

Pieters made a solitary birdie (on the par-3 8th) and a lone bogey (on the par-5 11th) in his card of 72, that took his four-day tally to 10-under par 278.

India’s Shubhankar Sharma (71) and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello (70) were tied second one shot behind Pieters. It was Sharma’s best-ever finish in a Rolex Series event, bettering his tied seventh in Italy and Turkey in 2019. Both Sharma and Cabrera-Bello made brilliant birdies on the final hole to edge ahead of Frenchman Victor Dubuisson (69) and Norwegian Viktor Hovland, the world number seven, who were tied fourth at 8-under par 280.

Dubai-born 17-year-old amateur Josh Hill, who made the cut in stunning fashion, battled hard but shot a three-over par 75 with three bogeys in the last four holes. He finished tied 58th at three-over 291.

Pieters started the day at 10-under, one behind overnight leader Scott Jamieson and tied with Ireland’s Shane Lowry.

Lowry, who won the title in 2019 and then went on to win the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, ceased to be a factor after starting with a triple bogey seven. Jamieson also did not last long, four birdies in his first five holes meant Pieters had new challengers.

Hovland put the pressure after he negated an early triple bogey on the third hole with an eagle on the seventh and birdie on the fifth, but he made a double bogey on the 15th.

Rory McIlroy made a stunning charge, and he was six-under for his round through 13 holes (including an eagle two on the par-4 9th hole), but just as he was amplifying the pressure, he slipped with three bogeys in his last five holes.

Towards the end, it was left to Cabrera-Bello and Sharma. The Spaniard was tied with Pieters before back-to-back bogeys on the 15th and 16th. Sharma’s trusted putter finally gave up on the 17th hole, where he missed a six-footer for par.

That left a clear path for Pieters, who decided to traverse the 18th hole without any heroics, laying up with his second shot and fully enjoying his two-shot advantage as he closed with a par.

“It’s fantastic. I was well in control of my ball all day. The putting maybe wasn’t there, but I felt really confident early on,” said Pieters.

“When you’re in control of your ball flight and the golf ball, it’s fun. You know, you can be creative and that’s how I felt out there today.”

If Sharma was disappointed not to get his first win in almost four years, he hid it well.

“I am very happy with the way I played today and I am delighted with my finish,” said Sharma, who led the tournament in Strokes Gained – Putting.

“Some of the top players in the world were here this week, and gives me a lot confidence that I can finish high up on the leaderboard and compete with them. There’s so much to look forward to now.”

Jamieson faded away to tied 10th place following a 77.

World number two Collin Morikawa (75), the highest ranked player in the field, slipped to tied 62nd, while McIlroy (69) finished in tied 12th place.

The DP World Tour next moves down the road to Dubai for the $8 million Slync Dubai Desert Classic, a back-to-back Rolex Series event.

RESULTS (after 72 holes):

278 – Thomas Pieters (BEL) 65 74 67 72

279 – Shubhankar Sharma (IND) 70 71 67 71, Rafael Cabrera Bello (ESP) 69 71 69 70

280 – Victor Dubuisson (FRA) 70 72 69 69, Viktor Hovland (NOR) 64 74 70 72

281 – Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 66 77 71 67, Jeff Winther (DEN) 71 69 71 70, James Morrison (ENG) 66 71 72 72, Ian Poulter (ENG) 66 72 71 72

282 – Adam Scott (AUS) 70 72 68 72, Scott Jamieson (SCO) 63 74 68 77

283 – Wu Ashun (PRC) 69 77 70 67, Rory McIlroy (NIR) 72 75 67 69, Jordan Smith (ENG) 71 72 71 69, Erik Van Rooyen (RSA) 69 71 73 70, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 69 77 67 70, Romain Langasque (FRA) 72 73 67 71, Sam Horsfield (ENG) 74 70 68 71, Shane Lowry (IRL) 67 72 67 77

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