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Golf: Matt Fitzpatrick leaves it too late to challenge in Abu Dhabi but the signs are encouraging

England's Matthew Fitzpatrick follows his ball on the 2nd hole during the final round of the Abu Dhabi Championship golf tournament in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
England's Matthew Fitzpatrick follows his ball on the 2nd hole during the final round of the Abu Dhabi Championship golf tournament in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
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Matt Fitzpatrick left it too late to challenge for the win at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship but did enough to kick off his 2018 in strong style.

The Sheffield golfer produced the best putting week of his career to stay in touch throughout the competition - particularly so in a blistering third round.

Fitzpatrick had put himself in firm contention going into the final round after shooting a superb nine under par 63 on Saturday.

But his final round was far too steady until three consecutive birdies on the final three holes saw him climb to a third placed finish in a tie with Rory McIlroy.

Fitzpatrick finished on -18 for the tournament, four shots behind winner and European number one Tommy Fleetwood.

“It was tough out there today, really windy and it was really difficult to control your ball,” Fitzpatrick said.

“I feel like it’s a lot different playing wind over here than it is in Europe.

“I didn’t think it was easy but to finish with three in a row was better.

“This is statistically the best week I’ve putted ever.

“To hole all those putts and keep me in the top five is great.”

Fleetwood admitted he had been determined to retain his hunger after successfully defending the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Fleetwood fired a final-round 65 to finish 22 under par, two shots clear of fellow Englishman Ross Fisher.

It was the 27-year-old’s fourth European Tour victory and came just two months after he was crowned the 2017 Race to Dubai champion.

“I’ve put in a lot of work, I wanted to prepare for this year like I didn’t win the Race to Dubai,” Fleetwood told Sky Sports Golf.

“It was important to come out and make sure I’m hungry. I wanted to do the right things, and whenever you win it is validation that you can do it.

“My best golf is getting better and better and my worse golf is getting better as well.”

Fleetwood’s victory could put him in the top 10 of the world rankings for the first time when the new list is published today.