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Blowing a four-shot lead in the 2016 U.S. Open helped Shane Lowry win the $7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, even if the Irishman experienced déjà vu midway through the final round.
Lowry took a three-shot, 54-hole lead over South Africa’s Richard Sterne in the first Rolex Series tournament of the year. However, after 11 holes he was four behind after playing that stretch in 2 over compared to Sterne’s 5 under. It seemed like the 2016 U.S. Open all over again.
The 31-year-old had a four-shot lead through 54 holes at Oakmont. He crashed to 6-over 76 to finish second to Dustin Johnson. He lost his nerve on that occasion. Not this time.
Lowry, who began Abu Dhabi with a course-record-matching, 10-under 62, got back into contention thanks to birdies at 12 and 13, and Sterne dropping shots at 14 and 16. The pair came to the par-5 final hole tied at 17-under. Sterne carved his 3-wood approach right and didn’t get up and down for birdie. Lowry found the green with his 3-wood. His ensuing two-putt birdie helped him shoot 71.
Lowry’s 18-under 270 total gave him a one-shot victory over Sterne. Joost Luiten of The Netherlands finished third at 15 under. It is Lowry’s fourth European Tour win, and first since the 2015 WGC–Bridgestone Invitational.
“I slept OK last night, but it was a little bit nervy this morning, and breakfast and lunch didn’t go down as well as it has been the last few days,” Lowry said.
“But the one thing I got from Oakmont is I laid down and I didn’t show any fight or bottle (nerve). I did that today.
“I felt after the 11th hole I was getting myself in the same situation that I got myself in at Oakmont. But I kind of had a quick word with myself and told myself that, ‘you know, just kick on now and just see what I can do for the next six or seven holes.’”
Lowry earned a check for $1.16 million to move to the top of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. Sterne was looking for his first win since the 2013 Joburg Open. The diminutive South African earned $776,000. Luiten took home $437,000.
Lowry reached a high of 17th in the Official World Golf Ranking in November 2015, but he arrived in the Middle East ranked 75th after reaching a low of 92nd after missing the cut in last year’s British Open. Nothing really pointed to him walking away with the winner’s check.
“I knew I had been playing all right in the last couple of weeks in my preseason, but I didn’t really envision this to be honest,” he said.
“I’m just over the moon to have won again. You look at Westy (Lee Westwood) and Danny Willett at the back end of last season and you see what they did and they came back (to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge and DP World Tour Championship, Dubai respectively). You don’t know when you’re going to win again. It’s so hard to win out here.”
As well as moving to the top of the Race to Dubai, Lowry moves back into the World top 50. It almost definitely means a place in the Masters after missing out last year. He also believes the victory will help him achieve his dream of playing for Padraig Harrington on the 2020 European Ryder Cup team.
“It should do. I still have a goal in my head I’m working towards every day. Just because I won this doesn’t mean I can take my foot off the gas,” he said.
“It’s a great steppingstone, no doubt, because I’m back in the big tournaments now for the foreseeable future. Hopefully I can kick on from here and move back up the world rankings where I feel like I really belong.”