Shane Lowry birdied the final hole to beat Richard Sterne by one stroke and win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in a dramatic final-round battle.

The Irishman had led Sterne by three shots on 17 under par heading into Saturday's play, but was two over for the round through 11 holes.

By contrast, Sterne came firing out of the blocks with six birdies and just one bogey to go out in 31 strokes and Lowry's dropped shot at the 11th meant the South African led by four.

However, Lowry picked up back-to-back gains at the 12th and 13th, while Sterne made bogeys at the 14th and 16th to leave the duo tied with two to play.

It looked like a play-off may be on the cards until Lowry crunched a wonderful 281-yard approach onto the green in two at the par-five fifth, while Sterne went wayward into the crowd.

Sterne recovered to make par, but Lowry left himself a simple putt for birdie to finish one under for the round and 18 under for the tournament.

The thrilling ending left Lowry celebrating a first European Tour victory since 2015.

Behind the warring duo, Joost Luiten and Louis Oosthuizen did their best to bulldoze their way into the reckoning with respective scores of seven and six under for round four.

Luiten was three strokes off the pace at 15 under, while Oosthuizen was a further shot back in outright fourth.

Shane Lowry will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as he bids to win his first European Tour title since 2015.

Shane Lowry retained the lead at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship but his advantage was reduced to just a solitary shot by the halfway stage of the tournament.

The Irishman tied the course record with a 10-under 62 to open up a three-shot cushion at the top of the leaderboard after the first round.

Lowry recovered from a poor start at Abu Dhabi Golf Club to stay out in front on Thursday, carding a 70 to move to 12 under through 36 holes.

A three-time winner on the European Tour, the 31-year-old bogeyed the second and third holes before making two birdies on the front nine. He picked up two more shots after the turn, while a short birdie attempt on the green at the par-five 18th narrowly failed to find the cup.

"I'm really happy with that," said Lowry. "I knew today was going to be a bit of a weird day after shooting such a low score yesterday. 

"I just tried to go out and play like I played. To be honest, right from the start, I really feel like I played pretty well today. I think I gave myself a lot of chances.

"Some of the shots early on were pretty horrendous. I battled back and hit some really nice shots out there and hit some in close and made some birdies. I was happy with myself."

South African duo Richard Sterne and Louis Oosthuizen are hot on Lowry's heels, sharing second place on 11 under.

Sterne has yet to drop a shot through two rounds, while Oosthuizen matched his compatriot's four-under 68 despite bogeys at the 10th and 11th.

Early clubhouse leader Lee Westwood also signed for a 68 to sit two adrift of Lowry, with Ian Poulter, Soren Kjeldsen, Tom Lewis and Scott Jamieson a further stroke back on nine under.

Tommy Fleetwood holed a birdie put at the 18th to make the cut, but the Englishman will have to come from three under to win the tournament for a third consecutive year following a level-par 72.

Shane Lowry made a blistering start to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as he carded a 10-under-par 62 to tie the course record and take a three-shot lead.

The Irishman was blemish-free in his opening 18 in the United Arab Emirates, matching Henrik Stenson's record – set 13 years ago – at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Having started at the 10th, his front nine was magnificent and he made the turn in 31, missing a chance for eagle on the 18th despite sending his approach to four feet.

Lowry atoned for that disappointment by starting his back nine with three successive birdies, before holing from 20 feet at the seventh and gaining another stroke at the eighth.

He was unable to convert from 12 feet to take the outright course record after another superb approach but still matched his career-best score from the 2009 Irish Open.

"I'm obviously over the moon. It equals the best score I've ever shot," Lowry said. "I knew that, as well, and I said it to my caddie coming down the last – 'A birdie here would be the best score I've ever shot', to which obviously he said, 'Well then why don't you just go for it'. 

"I left the putt short but I felt like I hit a decent putt, it was just a bit more into the grain than I felt, and yeah, obviously I'm very chuffed.

Steve Stricker would be "honoured and excited" to be given the chance to captain the United States at the 2020 Ryder Cup.

Stricker, 51, has been touted as a potential captain of USA for the event at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in September 2020.

He captained the victorious USA team at the 2017 Presidents Cup and was a non-playing vice-captain at last year's Ryder Cup.

Stricker is expected to assist Tiger Woods at this year's Presidents Cup and said he would be thrilled to lead USA in 2020.

"I know about helping Tiger at the end of this year, and I enjoy being a part of that process with whoever the captain may be," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"As far as two years from now, I just don't know yet. It's something that I would be truly honoured and excited to do right there in my home state of Wisconsin and right down the road, couple hours down the road.

"But no one knows yet for sure. Got to hold off and put it in the PGA's hands and the committee that's making the decision and go from there."

Europe's new captain Padraig Harrington has vast Ryder Cup experience and is "highly respected by all", according to his predecessor Thomas Bjorn.

Padraig Harrington is the best man for the "monumental challenge" of retaining the Ryder Cup on American soil that Europe will face next year, according to Paul McGinley.

Harrington was confirmed as Europe's captain for the biennial matchplay tournament on Tuesday, succeeding Thomas Bjorn, who skippered Europe as they regained the trophy in France last year.

The Irishman will become the third captain from the Emerald Isle in four Ryder Cups. McGinley led Europe to victory at Gleneagles in 2014 before Darren Clarke suffered defeat at Hazeltine two years later.

"It's obviously great for Ireland, and there's no doubt that Padraig Harrington is the best man for the job on this occasion," McGinley told Sky Sports.

"He'll be very diligent, there's no doubt about that, very confident and hopefully continue this great run of success we're having in the European team."

Europe were beaten 17-11 on their last attempt to retain the trophy in the United States and, while McGinley believes it will be a tall order to do so this time around at Whistling Straits, he believes Harrington should have plenty of reason for encouragement.

"It's a big task, it's a task that he'll relish," McGinley added. "Obviously winning away from home is a lot more difficult than winning at home, we're not as good winning away from home, we haven't won away from home as often compared to what we've done when we have been at home, not just win but win relatively comfortably.

"He's got a lot of things in his favour, I think Thomas was blessed with the best European team we ever had in France, I think Pod will be blessed with an even better team than that.

"I think the standard of golf on the European Tour and the players we have on tour is going to ensure that.

"The second thing is the golf course that we're playing on is a European style golf course, it's a golf course that really suits the European style.

"It's windy, it's on Lake Michigan, it's got a links feel to it, so there's a lot of things adding up in our favour but it's a monumental task to win on American soil."

McGinley believes the selection of his vice-captains will be key to Harrington taking on that challenge successfully.

"He's a deep thinker, he's somewhat of a left-field thinker, I just watched his press conference and he talked about filling the role of vice-captain very carefully and I totally agree with that," McGinley said.

"You can't do everything as a captain, your very much defined by the quality of your vice-captains and you have to rely on them a lot.

"The first few days of the Ryder Cup there's four different arenas going on at the same time and you really need one pair eyes focused on [all of it], so the values of the vice-captain are going to be very important to him."

Padraig Harrington is under no illusions about the size of the task awaiting him in the United States in 2020, with Europe's new captain insisting his team's Ryder Cup performance will define his career.

Padraig Harrington was announced as Europe's captain for the 2020 Ryder Cup on Tuesday, but his United States counterpart remains unknown.

Padraig Harrington has been confirmed as Europe's captain for the 2020 Ryder Cup, succeeding Thomas Bjorn in the role.

Padraig Harrington said he is "not the fuzzy, cuddly type" and will look to follow Bernhard Langer's style of leadership when he captains Europe at the 2020 Ryder Cup.

Padraig Harrington has been confirmed as Europe's captain for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

Padraig Harrington will be tasked with leading a successful defence of the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits after he was confirmed as Europe's captain for the 2020 event on Tuesday.

Padraig Harrington has been confirmed as Europe's captain for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

The appointment of the three-time major champion, 47, was announced in a news conference at Wentworth on Tuesday.

Harrington succeeds Thomas Bjorn, having served as a vice-captain as the Dane oversaw an emphatic European success at Le Golf National in September.

A winner in four of his six Ryder Cup appearances as a player, Harrington was also a vice-captain in 2014 and 2016 under Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke.

Justin Rose has reclaimed the world number one spot despite not playing at the Tournament of Champions.

The FedEx Cup champion skipped the tournament in Hawaii, but was still able to replace Brooks Koepka at the top of the rankings.

Koepka needed to be no lower than a share of eighth to prevent a slip in the rankings and could only finish 24th.

Rose had two short spells as the best player on the planet last year and the Englishman will be aiming for a longer stay this time around.

Xander Schauffele is up to sixth in the rankings after matching the Plantation course record with an 11-under 62 at Kapalua on Sunday to take the Tournament of Champions title.

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