Richard Sterne focuses on the positives after narrowly missing out on Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA title
South African looked to have victory in his grasp only for Shane Lowry to clinch the title on the 18th
Richard Sterne might have fallen with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA within his grasp, but he said he is looking to the future with renewed optimism after his week in the capital.
The 37-year-old South African enjoyed the biggest pay day of his career to date, but had to settle for second place after his remarkable title-challenge fell apart at the last.
After starting the final round trailing his playing partner Shane Lowry by three strokes, Sterne made a blistering assault on the front nine of the National Course.
He birdied four of the first five holes, and reached the turn in 31. Lowry, meanwhile, appeared to be imploding, snapping a hook into the water off the ninth tee. When he subsequently bogeyed 11, Sterne had a four stroke lead.
The Irishman clawed his way back to the point the two players went down the 72nd hole of the tournament all square on 17-under par.
They hit matching, immaculate drives at 18, only for Sterne to leak his approach onto a cart path right of the green, while Lowry found the heart of it.
As if either had forgotten what they were playing for, the Falcon Trophy was nestled next to the bunker than Sterne had to circumnavigate while assessing his chip shot.
It took him three to get down from there, while Lowry took the two putts he needed to take the spoils.
“I’m just glad that I gave a good performance this week with a strong field,” said Sterne, who has not won on tour since the 2013 Johannesburg Open.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had a decent tournament, so I’m pretty happy with the way I’ve performed.
“I hit the ball really well. I was up there most of the week, stayed up there for the whole tournament basically, and I had a chance right down to the last.
“I’m looking forward to the next few weeks now. I’m feeling good. Obviously a little sore with not pulling it off here, but it carries on.”
Sterne’s runner-up finish earned him €682,793 (Dh2.9m). His 17-under total was two shots better than Joost Luiten, whose 65 was the best of the final round.
“I had a tough time at the end of last year with injury, so it’s good to be back playing again, and great to start off the season with a top three,” Luiten said.
“I feel happy with the way I’m playing, and happy on the golf course, which is a good thing.”
Another resurgent South African, Louis Oosthuizen, was a shot further back in fourth, having carded a final-round 66.
“The stuff I’m working on is working,” Oosthuizen, who had rounds of 65, 68, 75 and 66 this week, said.
“I just need to keep on working at it and not try to do that 75. After four rounds, don’t have that bad round in there, so it is about working on the consistency.”
Updated: January 19, 2019 06:43 PM