Happy Abu Dhabi return for birthday boy Fleetwood

Tommy Fleetwood may not have received the perfect birthday present on the final day of the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA but he was delighted to go close to winning a third Rolex Series title in the desert.

Tommy Fleetwood

The Englishman turned 29 on Sunday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, a course where he won back to back titles in 2017 and 2018, and produced his lowest round over the layout with a bogey free 63.

That was not quite enough to catch countryman Lee Westwood, who carded a 67 to get to 19 under and win by two shots, but Fleetwood was very happy with his start to the 2020 Race to Dubai.

"It was good, really good," said Fleetwood after finishing in a share of second with Matthew Fitzpatrick and Victor Perez.

"At the end of the day, golf is very, very difficult and there's so many top, top players now.

"I think this week shows the standard when the cut was nearly two under and it felt so difficult.

"The winning score is better than what you think it is and to have another good result in these events is great, I'm just happy with my own performance.

"The first week of the year you never quite know what's going to turn up, so I'm happy that I performed, happy with how I feel and it was nice getting the juices flowing on the last, knowing that I could post a score."

Fitzpatrick shared the lead with Westwood after a birdie at the fourth but made only two more in his closing 67 as he saw numerous putts brush the edge.

But the five time European Tour winner, like Fleetwood, was pleased with his week's work as he secured another second place after being runner up four times in 2019.

"Apart from one missed putt, I wouldn't take a shot back," he said. "To come off the golf course that's a great feeling, despite not being enough to win. It's been a great week.

"It's a great start to the year and you're always a little bit nervous when you come into the start of the year after taking so much time off. So to come back and play as well as I felt I have done is a positive."

Fitzpatrick was also full of praise for Fleetwood, and quipped: "That Tommy Fleetwood, he's so annoying. He's probably the most disciplined golfer I've ever played with, just picking targets and sticking to them and not even being tempted to be greedy."

Perez matched Fleetwood's 63 for the lowest round of his European Tour career and a second runner up finish in a Rolex Series event.

And after 2019 brought him a first European Tour win, a top five at a World Golf Championships event and a place in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, the Frenchman has no intention of resting on his laurels.

"I just thrive on these moments," he said. "I think you take a lot from it and you try to take all the positives.

"I think it shows you that you can do it at that level and then obviously you come into these types of tournaments feeling a lot more comfortable. It shows how quickly things can go in this game and obviously I'm going to try to keep on going.

"It's about me to continue getting better. I'm very pleased with where I am but I think it's a continuous process and you always try to learn. 

"This year is going to be brand new again for me like last year was, being my first year on the European Tour, and this year I'm going to be getting in some Majors. This will be all new so it's learning and that's the great thing about golf, you always learn, good or bad."

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