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Perez claims Abu Dhabi title

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AFP) — Victor Perez endured nail-biting drama over the closing stretch of the Abu Dhabi Championship, before edging a one-shot win on Sunday.

The 30-year-old Frenchman holed out his bunker shot on the par-3 17th hole in remarkable fashion to get to 19-under, before visiting the fairway bunker and making a bogey on the par-5 18th hole at Yas Links Abu Dhabi.

Perez finally closed with a six-under-par66 for an overall total of 18-under-par 270.

Australia’s Min Woo Lee paid the price of a bogey on the 17th hole when he missed a par putt from less than five feet. He almost holed out his third shot for an eagle on the 18th which could have forced a playoff.

However, his ball rolled back towards the pin and stopped agonizingly close. The birdie saw him finish on 68 and in
tied-second place alongside Sweden’s Sebastian Soderberg (67).

Ireland’s 51-year-old Padraig Harrington, who was trying to become the oldest winner on the European Tour, was in fourth solo place at 16-under par. He started his round with a bogey but made seven birdies in his round after that.

The win was Perez’s third on the tour in 91 starts and moves him to the top of the European Tour rankings with 1,335 points. He is likely to climb to 60th place in the world, up from 117th.

“It feels fantastic,” said an emotional Perez. “I thought you always need a bit of fortune and there’s always the deciding shots coming down the stretch that can make or break. To hole that bunker shot on 17 is probably going to be a highlight.”

“I was just trying to fly the ball all the way to the hole and if it came up a bit heavy, it was probably going to release down to the hole and probably have an 8-footer for par. I was expecting Sebastian to hole his putt for birdie.”

“In my head, I was going best case scenario, probably one ahead or tied going into the last hole, but I come up with a two-shot lead, which is always massive.”

“The other person is going to have to do something great and you’re going to have to do something poor to lose a two-shot lead. I almost did, but thankfully, a six was enough.”

Italy’s Francesco Molinari (71) and Sweden’s Alex Noren (68) were tied for fifth place at 14-under.

The European Tour next moves down the road to Dubai for the Dubai Desert Classic, a second Rolex Series event in successive weeks. World number one Rory McIlroy is scheduled to play the tournament at Emirates Golf Club.

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