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McIlroy records another top-three finish in Abu Dhabi as Hatton comes through to triumph in season opener


Rory McIlroy finds trouble on the eighth hole at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy finds trouble on the eighth hole at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Rory McIlroy finds trouble on the eighth hole at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy couldn't hold onto his overnight lead at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as Tyrrell Hatton came from behind to triumph in the European Tour's season opener.

Hatton was superb in the final round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, carding a six-under-par 66 to finish at 18-under and win by four strokes from Australia's Jason Scrivener.

McIlroy, who had led by one from Hatton going into the final day, had a round plagued by bogeys after a very promising start and eventually signed for a level-par 72 to finish solo third at 13-under.

That's now eight top-three finishes in 10 starts in the United Arab Emirates for McIlroy, who had spoken about needing to "make it (his) turn" to win rather than feeling like he was due a win in the desert.

However, in the final round he didn't do enough, and a round that saw him mix four birdies with the same number of bogeys allowed European Ryder Cup team-mate Hatton to steal the victory.

McIlroy had started well with birdies at the second and third to maintain his early lead, but the first bogey of the afternoon came at the fourth, followed by a surprising bogey on a par-five, the eighth, when he found trouble off the tee.

A birdie on the 10th - where he had an incredible hole-out eagle on Saturday - was undone by a bogey at 11, and his race was run when he dropped a further shot at the 16th.

However, he did ensure that he would have third place to himself with a closing birdie at the par-five 18th, which will give him a bit of a boost heading to next week's Farmers Insurance Open in Arizona.

The frustration for the Holywood ace will likely not be that he didn't win, but that he didn't give himself a chance down the stretch to potentially overhaul Hatton and succeed.

However, it is still a very positive start to the season for the 31-year-old, with this his fourth top-eight finish in his last six events, and if he continues this form then a return to the winner's circle for the first time since November 2019 is surely not long in coming.

Instead, on this occasion the victory deservedly went to World No.9 Hatton, who handled the final round pressure and comfortably claimed his fourth Rolex Series title.

The 29-year-old was bogey-free in round four and kept adding birdies consistently to take advantage of McIlroy's mistakes and keep the impressive Scrivener at arm's length.

The Englishman had drawn level with McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard with birdies at the second and seventh holes and then moved ahead with a par at the eighth when his playing partner bogeyed.

Back-to-back birdies at the ninth and 10th then consolidated his advantage, and he further extended his lead by sinking birdie putts on 13 and 16 to make the final few holes a long march to the title.

That's a fourth win since November 2019 for Hatton, who is one of the world's in-form players currently having claimed the Arnold Palmer Invitational and BMW PGA Championship last year, and will likely elevate him to a career-highest place in the world rankings.

Second-placed Scrivener tied Hatton for the joint-best round of the day, playing the front nine in 37 strokes but taking just 29 on the back - after five birdies and an eagle - for a 66 of his own to secure his best-ever finish on the European Tour.

Cabrera Bello notched a three-under 69 in his final round to claim fourth on his own, his best finish since the 2019 Open de Espana, while American David Lipsky and Scotland's Marc Warren tied for fifth on 11-under.

Tommy Fleetwood, who started the day two shots back of McIlroy, also struggled on Sunday, carding a one-over 73 to finish in a tie for sixth at 10-under, alongside Fabrizio Zanotti, Matt Wallace and Chris Paisley.

Meanwhile, Darren Clarke won his second PGA Tour Champions event after claiming the victory at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in Hawaii.

Clarke sank a brilliant putt on the 18th to finish at 21-under-par after a final round 64, two shots ahead of closest challenger Retief Goosen to take the title.

That's two wins in two starts on the senior tour for the Dungannon man, who won the last time he played an event at the TimberTech Championship in November.

Belfast Telegraph