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23 January 2018, 02:00 | Nina Perez
Rory Mc Ilroy reacts yesterday on the 1st hole during the third round of the Abu Dhabi Championship in Abu Dhabi
The Race to Dubai champion of a year ago secured a third tournament victory since the start of 2017 in a style that epitomised his stunning rise.
His seven-under tally left him 15 strokes behind victor Tommy Fleetwood, who stormed home with a 65 to finish two clear of English compatriot Ross Fisher. McIlroy's 70 meant a share of third with Matt Fitzpatrick at minus 18.
Certainly the manner in which the 27-year-old stormed through the back nine in 30 shots in windy conditions to deny fellow Englishman Ross Fisher suggested that here is a man destined for golf's more prestigious honours. "It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses". Fisher was forced to have to eagle the par-5 18th hole if he wanted to tie Fleetwood at 22-under.
McIlroy, who hit 17 greens in regulation, collected his first birdie of the day by making an uphill 15-foot putt at the third and made further birdies at the seventh and eighth.
Fleetwood is expected to be in the Worlds Top Ten when the new rankings are announced later today. Fleetwood, who has enjoyed marriage and fatherhood over the past year, may question if this fairytale is ever likely to end. "I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game", Mickelson said after posting a 68 on Friday. Really pleased. I played very solid. I really wanted to win this.
"Last year, I had the year of my life by a long, long way on the course. Its a weird feeling coming to defend a trophy because its yours and you dont want to give it away".
The centre of attention in the build up to last year's Open Championship due to it being held in his home town of Southport, Fleetwood did well to make the cut after struggling to an opening 76 and ended up in the top 30 behind victor Jordan Spieth.
"I'm really happy how I played this week", McIlroy told reporters afterward. "He is a great addition to the world of golf and the European tour and he will be a great addition to the Ryder Cup team in September". "But I felt like I got back into that pretty quickly, that's the most pleasing thing". "So if I continue to drive like this and get my iron game back, it's going to be a good year".
'Just having a chance to win the first event on the European Tour season, is exciting and I am looking forward to the challenge.
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