Shane Lowry kicked off 2019 with a wonderful wire-to-wire victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA after coming out on top in a trilling final-round battle with Richard Sterne.
The Irishman, who now leads the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, closed his final-round 71 with a crucial birdie to win by a single shot and secure his fourth European Tour title and first Rolex Series title – but he did not have it all his own way on Saturday.
Lowry entered the day with a commanding three-shot lead but found himself four strokes behind Sterne after carding four bogeys and two birdies in his first 11 holes.
The 31 year old rallied, though, firing back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th and after Sterne dropped a couple of shots coming down the stretch, Lowry made another gain at the 18th to get to 18 under par and clinch his first trophy since the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Dutchman Joost Luiten was alone in third on 15 under after producing two eagles in his final-round 65, with Major winner Louis Oosthuizen a further shot back.
Shane Lowry: “It was an emotional roller coaster today. I obviously went out with the lead by a few and before I knew it I was four behind.
“I was brave out there today. I ground it out well and I’m over the moon. I’m so excited with this win. I can’t really tell you how good it feels to be standing here.
“It’s nice to have a star beside my name and to win a Rolex Series event. We are very lucky to be able to play Rolex events on The European Tour. They have done a great job putting these events together, and I’m just over the moon to have one of them.
I’m just so grateful that I’ve won this and I’m so happy, and I’m going to really enjoy it because you just don’t know when it’s going to happen again.”
Richard Sterne: “I’m just glad that I gave a good performance this week with a strong field.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had a decent tournament, so I’m pretty happy with the way I performed. Thanks to Abu Dhabi and HSBC for putting on a magnificent event, and Rolex, as well. I appreciate it.”
Joost Luiten: “I’m just happy with the way I’m playing. I feel happy on the golf course and that’s a good thing.
“I just need to keep doing what I’m doing now. The swing feels comfortable and I’m hitting some great iron shots, and I just need to keep doing that. If I keep giving myself birdie chances, I’ll make a couple.”