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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Tommy Fleetwood 'happy with my game' as he prepares to chase down Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship leaders 

Defending champion two shots off leaders Fisher and Pieters after a 5-under-par 67 on Saturday to move to 15-under for the tournament

England's Tommy Fleetwood plays a bunker on the seconnd hole during the third round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo
England's Tommy Fleetwood plays a bunker on the seconnd hole during the third round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo

After being serenaded by the galleries during the final throes of his second round, then blowing out the candles on a birthday cake delivered by Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood was back to business on Saturday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

The defending champion might have been forgiven for over-indulging when celebrating his 27th birthday. Life is pretty sweet after all, what with being newly-married, having a young baby in tow, being officially the best golfer on the European Tour, and having the world No 11 provide the confectionary.

If he did, it did not show in his play in Round 3. Fleetwood ended it with a 5-under-par 67, moving him to 15-under for the tournament, and leaving him in striking distance, two shots back from leaders Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters ahead of Sunday’s final round.

For the second time in three rounds, he did not drop a shot. Like McIlroy, he has marked just a solitary bogey on the three cards he has submitted to the scorers so far.

So is he ready to go back to back at the National Course? “Of course I am,” Fleetwood said.

“So far, so good. I’m in a really good place, and a couple of the guys played some unbelievable golf, and you can't do anything about that.

“But for me, it's been a really solid week so far. I’m happy with my game, and that's just what I've got to go out and do tomorrow.

“I have to go out with the same attitude, hopefully I'll swing it the same and have a lot more chances and we'll see what happens.”

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Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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Fleetwood will begin the final round of his title defence at 12.32pm, when he tees off alongside Thomas Detry, the 25-year-old Belgian who shot a sparkling 8-under-par 64 in Round 3.

Detry might lack the celebrity of those around him. His playing partner is the reigning Order of Merit champion, while the only four players who go out later than them have all represented Europe in the Ryder Cup in the past.

But he does share one relevant similarity with McIlroy and Fleetwood. Like them, he has just one bogey to his name in the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, presented by EGA, so far.

“Today the putter was hotter and I hit some close ones and made some good putts,” Detry said. “I’m very pleased with the way I'm playing golf, and I'm excited for the rest of the season.”