Hot back nine sees Fleetwood hold off McIlroy in Abu Dhabi

England’s Tommy Fleetwood successfully defended his title at the $3 million Abu Dhabi Championship Sunday, shooting a seven-under par 65 round to beat compatriot Ross Fisher by two shots.

The 27-year-old Southport resident made the turn at one-under par, but was on fire on the back nine. He made six birdies, including one on the closing 18th hole, to edge Fisher.

The back-nine heroics of Fleetwood, ranked 18th in the world and expected to rise to No10 when the new list is released Monday, included making a 25 feet putt for birdie on the 15th hole to tie for the lead with Fisher, and then a 50-feet birdie putt to take outright lead on the 16th hole.

Fisher (69) started the day in impressive fashion with an eagle on the second hole, courtesy a 45-feet putt, and was four-under at the turn. But on the back nine, he made a bogey on the 10th and a solitary birdie on the 16th hole to finish on 20-under par.

Last year, Fleetwood beat the reigning world No1 Dustin Johnson by one shot, kickstarting a successful season that culminated in him winning the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnson (70) finished on 14-under par this year, while former world No1 Rory McIlroy shot a 70 to tie for third place at 18-under par alongside Matthew Fitzpatrick (69).

Overnight joint leader Thomas Pieters (72) and winner of last week’s South African Open, England’s Chris Paisley (69) were tied fifth at 17-under 271.