The 22-year-old from Sheffield edged fellow countryman Tyrrell Hatton in a gripping finale, while super Swede Henrik Stenson claimed his second Race to Dubai crown. Robbie Greenfield reports from the Earth Course
On a memorable day for English golf, and another thrilling finale to the DP World Tour Championship, Matthew Fitzpatrick went toe-to-toe with Tyrrell Hatton down the stretch on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, and it was the 22-year-old from Sheffield who came out on top after a nailbiting final hole. Fitzpatrick, who turned professional in 2013 at the age of just 18, has now won three European Tour titles and made his Ryder Cup debut in a still fledgling career, but this was by far his finest hour.
Needing a birdie to win on the par 5 18th after Hatton had let a one-shot lead slip with a closing bogey of his own, Fitzpatrick got up and down from a greenside bunker, nervelessly holing a five-foot putt to seal a memorable win and bring the curtain down on this vintage European Tour season.
Meanwhile, Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson closed with ambest-of-the-week score of 65 to put an emphatic seal on his second Race to Dubai trophy in three years. But it was young Fitzpatrick who was sporting the widest smile as the sun began to set on this iconic piece of sporting theatre in the desert.
“It’s been a long year for me, but this means the world,” said the beaming Yorkshireman as he walked off the 18th green with the cheers of Sunday’s huge crowd still ringing in his ears. “To win one of these Final Series events is really special, and this one in particular, obviously the last tournament of the year. Words can’t describe it.”
For most of the final stages it had looked like Hatton (another young Englishman who has enjoyed a breakout season) would prevail. Chipping in brilliantly for par on the island green 17th, he then found water with his final tee shot and compounded that error by missing a 12-foot putt for par that would have ultimately been enough to get him into a play-off.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s been a great week and for me it’s been the best year of my life,” said the 25-year-old. “I’m sure in the future I’ll take my next chance. If you told me at the start of the year that I would move up to fourth in the Race to Dubai I would have been surprised, so I’m very happy with that.”
Open champion Stenson is another man who has a lot to savour after rubber-stamping what he described as “the best year of my career” with another high finish.
“I alway thought it was going to be hard to top 2013, but I think I’ve done that this year. Maybe not quite the [same] level of golf over six months, but certainly with the highlights of winning The Open, the [silver medal at the] Olympics and the Race to Dubai again, it feels lovely to finish this way.”
It was a fitting end to a season that saw European players claim two majors and Olympic gold and silver in Rio de Janeiro.
The DP World Tour Championship has become one of the jewels in Dubai’s sporting crown, blossoming into an event that transcends golf and appeals to an ever-growing audience as one of the best days out of the year. The European Tour and its chief executive Keith Pelley can reflect on a season that has witnessed great success on the course and an impressive variety of colourful content off it that is helping to attract a new audience.
And as golf embraces this new era in its history, Dubai is perfectly positioned to help lead the way.