Shane Lowry fixed his sights firmly on the Ryder Cup after winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for a first European Tour title since 2015.
The Offaly-native produced a magnificent fightback to overturn Richard Sterne’s four-shot lead in the final seven holes and win with a birdie on the 18th.
Lowry suffered a miserable time on the USPGA Tour last year, finishing 138th on the money list and without any top-10 finishes.
But the 31-year-old now leads the Race to Dubai, and he is determined to win a place on Padraig Harrington’s Europe team at the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.
“This puts me to where my goal is for the next 18 months, and that’s to be on the plane to Wisconsin with Paddy (Harrington),” Lowry told Sky Sports after a victory which is set move from 75 to around 40 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
“That’s where I want to be and I think this is a great stepping stone for that.”
Lowry had not tasted victory since the 2015 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and he had to do it the hard way as his three-shot overnight lead quickly evaporated.
The final #ADGolfChamps leaderboard...January 19, 2019
Sterne had six birdies and a bogey to go out in 31, and Lowry’s fourth bogey of the day on the 11th left him four shots adrift of the South African.
But he became the first player in European Tour history to make 11 birdie twos in a tournament when he birdied the short 12th, and a 30-foot putt on the 13th edged him even closer.
The pressure got to Sterne as he dropped shots at 14 and 16, and a wayward approach opened the door for Lowry, who found the green in two and secured victory with an 18-inch tap-in putt.
“People looking from the outside probably thought I was gone, four behind with seven to play,” Lowry said.
History for Lowry 🏅January 19, 2019
“But I’ve had greats chats with my coach this week about just hanging in and staying there no matter what I do, what I shoot or what shots I hit.
“Just keep going and it definitely helped me out there.
“It’s been a long time (to win) and I’m just over the moon.”
Happy New Year 🏆
The Lowrys pic.twitter.com/rHAsXMWo59— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 19, 2019
Holland’s Joost Luiten finished third three shots behind Lowry, with Louis Oosthuizen fourth and Soren Kjeldsen fifth.
Luiten’s lengthy eagle putt on 18 gave him a best-of-the-day 65 and outright third place.
Former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen fired a 66 to finish fourth and Soren Kjeldsen was a shot further back in fifth.
Paul Waring, Pablo Larrazabal and Ian Poulter, who closed with a disappointing 72, shared sixth place on 12 under.
- Press Association