Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: The best and the worst from Yas Links

Frenchman Victor Perez was crowned champion after one of the shots of the week

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It was a memorable week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after a dramatic finish at Yas Links. Here are some of the highlights – and low points.

Champion - Victor Perez

Victor Perez of France on the 18th green after being presented with the trophy. Getty

Still mornings and breezy afternoons helped keep the pack bunched tight together all week. At the start of the final round, 15 players were within three strokes of the lead.

Perez made a break from the peloton with a run of six birdies in 11 holes at the start of his closing 18. His lead was one stroke when he fired his tee-shot at the par-3 17th into a greenside bunker.

His escape was one for the ages, spinning the ball back into the hole, to give him a two-shot cushion over playing partner Sebastian Soderberg, and Min Woo Lee, who was playing in the group behind.

It was scarcely easy from there on in. He found the bunker, then ever-so-nearly the water, with his first two shots at 18, but he held on to win by one.

They said it

“The way I look at it, when all of us went to play on the PGA Tour back in the day, we shouldn't have been welcomed back either then. There's multiple tours in the world and as far as I'm concerned, as long as you fulfill your criteria and earn your right to be there, you should be able to play in as many tournaments as you like.”

Henrik Stenson mounted a defence for the LIV Golf rebels on their return to the DP World Tour, and ahead of their arbitration hearing next month.

“I was burnt out five years ago, no doubt about it. I'm here because I had nothing else to do. I figured out this is actually what I like doing, and I'm pretty good at it, and there's no point in trying to be good at something else. I'll never be good as I am at golf, so why not find a way of going out there and loving golf again?”

Padraig Harrington says he has revived his love for the sport since joining the Champions Tour. Aged 51, he can still compete with the best on Tour, as his thrilling charge to fourth at Yas Links showed.

“It came out maybe a little skinny, I'm not going to lie.”

Victor Perez labelled his seminal bunker shot at his 71st hole the “greatest shot I have ever hit” … even if it did not come off the club faced exactly as he planned.

Best shots

Guido Migliozzi, Day 2, Hole 16, second shot

With the strong afternoon breeze consistently blowing in off the Arabian Gulf, low-trajectory “stinger” shots were employed with frequency by all players.

Few played it better than Migliozzi. He 171-yard approach to gimme range started a run of three consecutive birdies with which he closed his second round.

Shane Lowry, Day 3, Hole 6, second shot

The Irishman was four shots behind leader Francesco Molinari when he addressed his second shot, it prime position in the middle of the sixth fairway.

Pitching from 155 yards away, he holed out for an eagle which fired him right up into the title battle.

Tyrrell Hatton, Day 3, Hole 2, third shot

Ahead of the weekend, the angry Englishman was labelled “Golf Psycho” in the latest spoof masterpiece on the DP World Tour’s social media channels.

He seemed only too ready to live up to his notoriety when he took a wedge on the second green – and promptly holed for birdie from 67 feet. He immediately proved he is a good lad really, too, as he tended to the mess he had made.

Dan Bradbury, Day 4, Hole 17, first shot

The 23-year-old Englishman’s fifth appearance on tour was not quite as spectacular as his third: he won the Joburg Open last year while playing on a sponsor’s invite.

He finished his first trip round the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship tied 60th with Ian Poulter and John Catlin. He also has a brand new Genesis G70 Shooting Brake after holing his tee shot from 201 yards at his 71st hole.

Victor Perez, Day 4, Hole 17, second shot

The defining moment of the tournament. He held a one-shot lead over Min Woo Lee and Sebastian Soderberg with two to play, but leaked his bunker shot short and right of the flag.

Wilting under the pressure? Hardly. He proceeded to land his escape past the pin and spun it back into the cup. It was the “shot of his life” as the commentators acclaimed it, and all but sealed the title – give or take some drama up the last.

Worst shots

Thomas Pieters, Day 1, Hole 18, second shot

Thomas Pieters of Belgium plays his second shot on the 18th hole during day one. Getty

The Belgian was far from the only player to find the water at 18 this week. But his approach into the shallows at his ninth hole on Day 1 was a big miss, and a sign that defending his Falcon Trophy was going to be tough. He did not make it to the weekend.

Jacques Kruyswijk, Day 1, Hole 10, second, third, fourth and fifth shots

Jacques Kruyswijk in action on day one at Yas Links. Getty

The South African could scarcely have had a more soul-destroying start to his tournament. His opening tee-shot only erred slightly, in the direction of a bunker beside the 10th fairway.

He would have been better off had it landed in the sand. Instead, it was embedded in deep, thick rough on the edge of the trap. He had two hacks at it, but failed to move it, and only then opted to declare it unplayable.

He finished the hole in eight, and was destined to miss the cut.

Luke Donald, Day 2, Hole 17, second shot

 Luke Donald in a spot of bother on day two. Getty

It all started so well. Europe’s Ryder Cup captain held the lead overnight on Day 1, then reclaimed it with two birdies at the start of his second round.

Things went flat thereafter, and reached their nadir at the penultimate hole of his second round. Opting to putt from the front edge of the par-3 17th, he fired the ball through the green and into a bunker.

It was compounded by the fact he failed to escape the sand trap in one go, and ended up walking away with a triple-bogey six.

Shane Lowry, Day 4, Hole 16, second shot

Shane Lowry had a tough final day. AP

The highest-ranked player in the field seemed the best shout of the 15 players who started the fourth round within three stokes of the lead.

At that stage he held the lead with his final-match playing colleagues. But his challenge barely got started over the final 18, and suffered a soggy end when he duffed his second shot miserably into the water at the 16th.

Updated: January 23, 2023, 5:28 AM
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