Sharma comes agonisingly close to winning Abu Dhabi Champs, finishes second; Pieters wins title

Thomas Pieters and Shubhankar Sharma. Pic: European Tour

Abu Dhabi, Jan 23: Shubhankar Sharma put up an amazing performance against a star-studded field but came up one stroke short of what would have been the biggest victory of his career. Sharma, starting the day at T-4, finished Tied-second for his career-best result on the European Tour, now called the DP World Tour.

Sharma, who was hit by a double bogey on two of the first three days, had yet another one on the final day at a crucial juncture. After having shown his intentions of making a charge with a fine birdie on second, Sharma was hit by a double bogey on Par-4 third.

Yet Sharma fought back and stayed in the frame. He birdied fifth, 10th and missed a par putt on 17th but missed it. He did manage a birdie on 18th but the bogey on 17th was costly.

Two of his birdies coming from 23 and 30 feet putts. Sharma finished the day at 1-under 71 and a total of 9-under.

Belgian Thomas Pieters, the overnight co-leader at 10-under, birdied eighth but dropped a shot at 11th to be back at 10-under. He went through tense moments on the back as he parred his last seven holes. On the 18th he had two putts for a win. He lagged his first putt and tapped in from less than a foot for his first Rolex Series win.

Sharma was thrilled with his performance, yet he did feel disappointed at having come so close and missing the big title.

He said, “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.

“I putted really well throughout the tournament and it was a shame I missed the one on the 17th. But to finish with a birdie on the last was a good feeling.

“This just gives me a lot of confidence going forward into the season. 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.”

Pieters became the first Belgian to win a Rolex Series event. The former Ryder Cup player was calmness personified while the others fell away in the challenging breezy conditions at Yas Links.

A birdie at the eighth hole moved him three shots clear but Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Rafa Cabrera Bello and Sharma were among the many stars to move in and back out of contention at various points during a thrilling final day.

Pieters dropped just a single shot thereafter, at the par five 11th, and signed for a level par 72 and a ten under total, leaving the 30-year-old one clear of Sharma and Spaniard Cabrera Bello and earning him a sixth victory on the Tour.

That elevated him to the top of the 2022 DP World Tour Rankings and moved him firmly back into the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since April 2018.

Norway’s Viktor Hovland shared fourth place with another former Ryder Cup player, France’s Victor Dubuisson, while last year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Champion Tyrrell Hatton and Ian Poulter were a shot further back in tied sixth, alongside James Morrison and Denmark’s Jeff Winther.

Read also:

Shubhankar shoots 67 in tough conditions rises to 4th in Abu Dhabi; Jamieson leads

Sharma T-14 in Abu Dhabi despite blustery winds; Jamieson leads by one

Mixed feelings for Sharma after 2-under in Abu Dhabi; lies T-38; Jamieson leads

Hatton joins Morikawa, McIlroy at the star-studded Abu Dhabi Champs; Shubhankar lone Indian

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