Tommy Fleetwood scrapes into weekend at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA despite 'pretty awful' putting
Two-time defending champion produced a birdie on the 18th to reach 3-under par to book his place in the third round
Tommy Fleetwood, the defending champion, needed to make a nervy 10-foot putt on the last to survive the halfway cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA on Thursday.
The world No 14, who has won the past two titles in the capital, reached 3-under-par after making it up and down from beside the Championship Pavilion, which runs adjacent to the 18th green, for a birdie four.
It meant the 27-year-old Englishman signed for an ever-par round of 72, on a day in which he said he had felt out of sorts with his putter.
“It was nice to get one in, as my putting was pretty awful today,” Fleetwood said. “There were a couple of short ones missed, and then just holed nothing at any makeable range.
“You can’t stress enough the importance of making cuts anyway in professional golf. That’s the game, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at.
“I’ve not thought about defending it at all this week. I want to, clearly, but the last two years I’ve not thought about winning it at all.
“I’m really, really happy that I’ve got two [more] days on the golf course because hitting balls on the range is not like playing.”
While Fleetwood scraped through to make it to the weekend, not all of the big six stars from the two marquee groups of the opening rounds were successful.
Henrik Stenson’s pursuit of a maiden Abu Dhabi title will have to wait for another year, after the Swede finished just below the cut-line on 2-under. It was the same fate that befell Tyrrell Hatton.
At one point it seemed as though each of Dustin Johnson and Fleetwood might join them in a premature exit. World No 3 Johnson, though, made it to 4-under with two birdies in the space of the last four holes.
The other two players that made up the two standout matches of the opening rounds will both believe they have a chance of taking the title on Saturday.
Louis Oosthuizen is on 11-under, a shot behind his Round 3 playing partner, the tournament leader Shane Lowry, while Brooks Koepka is on 7-under, following a second-round 70 that included three bogeys.
“It’s only the second round, so there’s no point pressing,” Koepka, the world No 2, said. “I don’t see any reason there. You can’t win it until Sunday so I’ve just got to be patient and let things come.”
Koepka is confident he will be well equipped to make up the five shots he currently trails Lowry by, particularly if the wind blows during the final two rounds.
“I think it plays right into my hands,” Koepka said. “I think usually the tougher it is, the better I do.”
Updated: January 17, 2019 06:39 PM