Thomas Pieters with the Falcon Trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Yas Links Golf Course
Thomas Pieters with the Falcon Trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Yas Links Golf Course Image Credit: AFP

Belgium’s Thomas Pieters enjoyed a “fun” final round at the Abu Dhabi Championship on Sunday to seal his second title in three starts.

As India’s Shubhankar Sharma rued a missed putt and Rory McIlroy’s challenge petered out tamely, Pieters made one birdie and one bogey in an even-par round of 72 to finish on 10-under-par 278.

“When you’re in control of your ball flight and the golf ball, it’s fun. You know, you can be creative and that’s how I felt out there today,” said Pieters, who turns 30 in four days’ time.

Sharma (71) and Dubai-based Spaniard Rafael Cabrera Bello (70) tied for second, one shot behind.

Overnight leader, Scotland’s Scott Jamieson, faded away to share 10th following a 77.

Further back in a tie for 12th after creeping into the top five at one point came McIlroy. He signed for a round of 69 after three bogeys in his last five holes.

Collin Morikawa, the highest ranked player in the field, trailed in outside the top 50 after a closing 75.

On a day when Yas Links was playing tricky because of drying greens and various tucked-up pins, other players kept falling by the wayside as Pieters hit every green in regulation on the front nine, and missed just one fairway on the opening hole.

When he made the turn at one-under par courtesy of a birdie on the par-3 eighth hole, he had already lost his nearest challengers.

Jamieson made four bogies in his first five holes and Shane Lowry made a triple bogey on the first hole itself.

A bogey on the second easiest hole on the golf course - the par-5 11th - brought the field close once again, and the lead was down to one shot going down the tough closing stretch.

However, Cabrera Bello made a bogey on the 15th and 16th hole and Sharma on the 17th. That gave Pieters a two-shot advantage on the 18th tee, and he took full advantage of that by laying up with his second and making an easy par.

“It’s fantastic. I was well in control of my ball all day. The putting maybe wasn’t there, but I felt really confident early on,” said Pieters.

On his second win in such a short time, he added: “I feel like I’ve turned the corner and playing really good golf. My putting has improved massively and I felt like that’s the thing that really kept me going on the weekend.

“I worked with the guys from Titleist last year. They just kind of analysed that my putting was not so good.

“They gave me a new putter and now everything has been flowing and I’ve been making a lot of putts.”

Sharma, 25, came close to becoming the first Indian winner of a Rolex Series event, but was undone by a missed par putt on the 17th hole.

“I am very happy with the way I played today and I am delighted with my finish,” said Sharma.

“I putted really well throughout the tournament and it was a shame I missed the one on the 17th. But to finish with a birdie on the last was a good feeling.”

Pieters’ reward for his sixth win on the newly-named DP World Tour is expected to earn him a rise from 69th in the world rankings to 31st.

He also won the Portugal Masters in the first week of November, his penultimate event last year.

The DP World Tour next moves down the road to Dubai for the Dubai Desert Classic, another Rolex Series event.