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Pieters leads in Abu Dhabi as Johnson, McIlroy lurk

Pieters leads in Abu Dhabi as Johnson, McIlroy lurk

He made six birdies, including one on the closing 18th hole, to edge Fisher.

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.

"I've had a lot of close calls here, I think about six top threes or something like that", he said.

However the distance to leaders Thomas Pieters and Ross Fisher is all but unsurmountable, with the pair now at 17-under overall.

The reigning European No. 1 handled the desert winds that blew over Abu Dhabi Golf Club better than the rest of the field to earn the $500,000 first place check. "I haven't been looking at leaderboards too much, just been trying to play my game, and it's going pretty well so far, so I'll try and do the same thing".

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Rory McIlroy closed with a 70 to share third place with Matthew Fitzpatrick, two shots adrift of Fisher, and the Northern Irishman said he was pleased with his first event since calling an early end to his injury-plagued and winless season in October previous year.

The Southport star's birthday has fallen on one of the early rounds of this tournament for the last two years. He completed a discouraging week by finding just four of 14 fairways and nine of 18 greens on his way to a 74 and missing the cut by four shots on his final day in La Quinta. "That score on this golf course is very, very good". It's been a huge success for me this week, even if I didn't win. I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

The four-time Major winner's challenge for a first title in more than a year faded after the turn with a run of seven pars and a bogey.

Fisher needed an eagle on the last to tie, but he could only manage a par for Fleetwood to celebrate his fourth European Tour win. "I'm really happy with how I played this week and it gives me confidence going into not only next week but the few months ahead, as well". Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, who also captained the EurAsia Cup team, will want Fleetwood in his team at Le Golf National, Paris when he lines up against a powerful United States team on September 28.

"It could have been a little bit better today". I felt really comfortable, really relaxed out there. My game is in really good shape and I saw some really, really positive signs.


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