Shane Lowry surged to the summit of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai after holding off a relentless Richard Sterne to complete a sensational wire-to-wire victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
The 31-year-old started the final day with a three-shot lead over South African Sterne but surrendered the advantage after carding four bogeys in his opening 10 holes while a red hot Sterne made the turn in 31 to take the lead from the 2015 WGC Bridgestone Invitational champion.
With four shots to make up and only seven holes to play, Lowry carded back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 before Sterne dropped shots on 14 and 16, leaving the pair level on 17 under par walking up the 18th.
The Irishman expertly made the green in two before holing his birdie putt to seal a maiden Rolex Series title and enter the Race to Dubai Rankings in first place on 1,165 points.
“It’s great to have a Rolex Series beside my name now, I get the gold bib and get the star there,” said Lowry, who became the first player in European Tour history to make 11 birdie twos in a tournament after demolishing the National course’s par 3s.
“You know, I think, we’re very lucky to be able to play such big events on the European Tour and Rolex have done a great job. All the players, I can vouch for them and say we’re very grateful to be playing for the types of money we are in the events we’re playing in. So yeah, I’m just over the moon to have won.”
Sterne, who was searching for a fifth European Tour victory, had to settle for runner-up after narrowly missing his own birdie chance at the last. The 37 year old receives 780 points which leapfrogs him from 101st to second on the Rankings.
Meanwhile, 2018 Oman Open winner Joost Luiten finished third, three behind Lowry after a highly impressive final round of seven under par 65 which leaves the Dutchman in sixth on the Race to Dubai Rankings on 438 points.
“It’s great to be back at the right end of a tournament,” said Luiten. “I had a tough time at the end of last year with an injury, so it’s good to be back playing again and great to start off the season with a top-three finish. I’m just happy with the way I’m playing. I feel happy on the golf course and that’s a good thing, I guess.”
2018 South African Open winner Louis Oosthuizen carded a final round 66 to secure fourth place on 14 under par to move from fourth to third in the Rankings on 760.6 points.
Søren Kjeldsen finished one further back to complete the top five and start his 2018/19 Race to Dubai campaign ranked 11th while 2014 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship winner Pablo Larrazábal jumped from 44th to 14th after a share of sixth place earned him 265.7 points