By David French
DUBAI (Reuters) – England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick sank a knee-knocking birdie putt from four feet on the final hole to seal the DP World Tour Championship on Sunday in a dramatic conclusion.
The $1.33 million first prize for the season-ending tournament in Dubai meant the 22-year-old from Sheffield, who carded a five-under-par 67 to finish the tournament 17-under, roughly doubled the amount he had won combined from his other 25 events this year.
“It means the world. To win one of these Final Series events is really special, and this one in particular, obviously the last tournament of the year,” Fitzpatrick told reporters.
“Four-footers aren’t normally what you want for the win but to finish it off like that makes it a lot sweeter.”
He edged out compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, who led the field down the stretch until he found water with his 18th tee shot, with the resultant bogey ultimately costing him the tournament by one shot.
“It’s a fairly difficult tee shot but I just leaked it a little bit right and paid the price for that,” Hatton told reporters.
“Obviously it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s been a great week and, for me, it’s been the best year of my life. So I can’t get too downbeat.”
It had seemed set up for Hatton after a remarkable escape on the 17th. Attempting to play off the back lip on a greenside bunker, he duffed the shot into the front of the same sand-trap, only to then hole his second exit attempt to rescue a par.
Instead, it was left to Fitzpatrick to craft his own piece of sand escapology in the desert emirate, chipping his third shot on 18 from a bunker to within a few feet and holding his nerve to seal only his third ever win on the European Tour — and, by far, the most lucrative.
ORDER OF MERIT
Sitting tied for second overnight with Hatton and Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, Fitzpatrick had himself led earlier in the day thanks to three birdies in the opening seven holes before Hatton seized the initiative on the back nine with birdies on 10, 12 and 14.
Colsaerts finished tied for fourth after posting a one-under final round, although a long eagle putt on 18 — just prior to Fitzpatrick’s dramatics — almost moved him up a place to level with Charl Schwartzel in third.
The South African made eight birdies on his way to a five-under-par 67.
Instead, the Belgian shared a five-way tie for fourth along with overnight leader Victor Dubuisson of France, Francesco Molinari of Italy — the co-leader after 36 holes — as well as Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger and Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen.
Earlier in the day, Henrik Stenson sealed the European money-list title to add to his British Open crown and Olympics silver medal already achieved in 2016.
The Swede carded a seven-under par 65, the same as playing partner and 2015 Race to Dubai winner Rory McIlroy, to snuff out any chance of being usurped as Order of Merit winner by his three potential challengers.
(Editing by Toby Davis)