Irishman Shane Lowry wins see-saw Abu Dhabi battle over Richard Sterne

Ireland’s Shane Lowry won a see-saw battle with Richard Sterne, needing a birdie on the last hole to win the $7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 19 January 2019

Irishman Shane Lowry wins see-saw Abu Dhabi battle over Richard Sterne

  • It was Lowry’s first win since the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational in August 2015
  • Lowry held his nerves on the back nine to make up a deficit of four shots after losing a three-shot advantage

ABU DHABI: Ireland’s Shane Lowry won a see-saw battle with Richard Sterne, needing a birdie on the last hole to win the $7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Saturday.
Lowry held his nerves on the back nine to make up a deficit of four shots after losing a three-shot advantage early in the final round.
He closed with a one-under par-71 round for a one-shot win over Sterne, who shot a final round of 69.
It was Lowry’s first win since the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational in August 2015 and he is expected to rise to number 40 in the world ranking from his current 75.
Netherland’s Joost Luiten made two eagles in his round — including a hole-out second shot on the par-four ninth hole — to shoot a 65 on a windy Abu Dhabi Golf Club course to finish solo third at 15-under 273, one better than South African Louis Oosthuizen (66).
World number two Brooks Koepka (70) finished tied ninth on 277, which meant that England’s Justin Rose will remain the world number one irrespective of his finish this week on the US PGA Tour’s Desert Classic.
“It was an emotional roller-coaster today. I obviously went out with the lead by a few and before I knew it, I was four behind. I was brave out there today. I grounded out well and I’m over the moon,” said Lowry, who received $1.16 million for his fourth European Tour title but the first in which he led wire-to-wire.
“People looking from the outside probably thought I was gone, but I holed a couple of great putts on 12 and 13 and I knew I was in it then.
“I said to my caddie walking down 16 that (if I got) three fours on the last three holes we could have a shout here.
He said he had talked in depth with his coach Neil Manchip before the tournament “about hanging in and staying in there no matter what I do and no matter what I shoot and what shots I hit.”
He added: “It definitely helped me out there today.”
Sterne was quick off the blocks and caught up with Lowry with birdies on his first three holes. The Irishman had also started with a birdie on the opening hole, but dropped a shot on the par-four third and found his three-shot advantage at the start of the day soon vanished.
Lowry regained the lead when he birdied his 10th par-three hole of the tournament on the fourth, but the South African chipped in for a birdie on the difficult par-four fifth hole playing into stiff headwind.
However, he did not enjoy the cushion for long and missed a par putt from a couple of feet on the sixth to tie again with Lowry on 17-under.
The tournament looked like becoming a two-horse race, with their closest rivals five shots behind at that stage, but the next two holes changed the equations completely.
Sterne birdied the par-five eighth hole to go one ahead. Lowry then hooked his tee shot straight into the water on the par-four ninth and wound up with a bogey, while Sterne made another impressive 15-foot birdie putt to go ahead by three at the turn.
The drama continued on the back nine. A bogey by Lowry on the 11th hole gave Sterne a four-shot advantage, but the burly Irishman bounced right back with back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th holes.
Sterne then dropped shots on the 14th and 16th and the duo headed to the 18th hole tied on 17-under par.
Both found the fairway, but the South African pushed his second shot into the cart path on the right. He failed to get his up-and-down from there, while Lowry, on the green in two, two-putted for the decisive birdie.
“I’m just glad that I gave a good performance this week with a strong field. It’s been a while since I’ve had a decent tournament, so I’m pretty happy with the way I performed,” Sterne said.
The win takes Lowry to the top of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, while Sterne’s long wait for a title — his last was at the Joburg Open in February 2013 — goes on.


F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

Updated 06 July 2020

F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

  • Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge

DUBAI: Formula 1 is back. And, for the majority of the season’s much delayed first race, it looked business as usual.

Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge.

But this, despite Bottas’  eventual victory, would prove anything but an ordinary race, for so many reasons.

The Austrian Grand Prix, the first race of the shortened season, was, like all top class sporting events around the world, taking place with no fans inside the Red Bull Ring, a legacy of the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The empty stands may have given this the initial look of a practice session, but the race would prove anything but routine.

This was a dramatic, often chaotic, return to action for Formula 1’s finest.

No doubt, the absence of motorsports’ most passionate and colorful fans, who in normal circumstances would have descended on Spielberg, Austria, was felt.

But for those watching on television, the truth is that the intensity of Formula1 action, unlike in football, and perhaps other team sports when they resume, is not overly affected by taking place behind closed doors.

 And it is something that the public will no doubt quickly adapt to. For now, only seven other rounds of the 2020 season have been confirmed; in Austria again (Red Bull Ring, July 10-12), will be followed by the Hungarian Grand Prix (July 17-19), two British Grand Prix races (Silverstone, July 31-Aug. 2 and Aug. 7-9); the Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona, Aug. 14-16); Belgian Grand Prix (Spa-Francorchamps, 28-30); and the Italian Grand Prix (Monza, Sept. 4-6).

Other races are pending, and fans in the Middle East will be hoping that the restart continues to go according to plan, hopefully leading to the confirmation of the Bahrain Grand Prix later this year, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the season’s finale.

Before the race the drivers had worn anti-racism T-shirts, though there was an element of controversy when several drivers, including Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc chose not to take the knee like their  rivals. Both explained  their stance on their social media accounts.

The early stages as expected were dominated by Mercedes and Red Bull, with Bottas and  Hamilton separated in first and fourth by Verstappen and Alexander Albon in 2nd and third.

After the reigning champion Hamilton overtook Albon in the early stages, one of the race’s turning points saw Verstappen retire after gear failure. With fewer points on offer this season, this could turn out to be a decisive incident, even at this early stage.

Bottas and Hamilton, now in first and second, seemed to have the race under control for Mercedes.

Lap 28 saw the safety car come out, but when the green light came back on Bottas streaked away followed by Hamilton with Albon in third and British driver Lando Norris, excelling in a McLaren, in fourth.

Within seconds from the restart, Vettel’s Ferrari spun as he attempted to overtake Carlos Sainz, and though he avoided an accident, it meant he dropped to 15th.

Less than half way through the race, the Austrian Grand Prix was providing more drama and incidents than millions glued to their televisions could have dared hope for.

The race now settled into a battle between Bottas and Hamilton, and even another intervention of the safety car after 52 laps could not put them out of their stride.

Kimi Raikkonen’s exit with 15 laps meant seven drivers had retired.

 But with with five laps left, Hamilton was penalized five seconds for an accident with Albon. Suddenly second place, for long seemingly a lock for Mercedes, was now up for grabs. Indeed, so was third.

Hamilton, to ensure a podium finish needed to beat Norris (in fourth) by more than five seconds. But Norris saved his best till last, his fastest lap ensuring the gap between him and the champion was sub-five seconds.

Bottas was the first winner of the season, second place went to Leclerc and Ferrari, and a disbelieving Norris and McLaren team in third.

Hamilton, in the blink of an eye, dropped to fourth.

The podium presentation no doubt lacked its usual celebratory vibe, but try telling that to Leclerc and Norris who could not have dreamed of this conclusion.

 If the remainder of the 2020 races live up to this astionishing Austrian Grand Prix, Formula 1’s shortest season could turn out to be one of its best.