Tommy Fleetwood deserves his spot in the limelight alongside established stars

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Tommy Fleetwood stood on the 18th hole at Abu Dhabi Golf Club and when the moment came he lifted the Falcon Trophy above his head and shook it to the pale blue UAE sky.

It’s been a life-changing 12 months for the Englishman and nobody would have predicted him to successfully defend his title in such a scintillating manner.

Five shots down as he stepped on to the 10th hole, it looked like a top-seven position would be as good as it was going to get this time around for the 27-year-old.

But, sport can throw up tricky situations and on a blustery day, leader Ross Fisher would go on to bogey two of the next six holes to drop crucial shots at defining moments.

As his scorecard increased, Fleetwood produced the back nine of his life to hole six birdies and subsequently retain his Abu Dhabi crown by two shots.

While much of the talk this week centered on star names such as World No.1 Dustin Johnson and four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, Fleetwood should now be mentioned in the same conversation.

Ranked 12th in the world, the unassuming Race to Dubai winner’s rise cannot be ignored any longer as he proves hard work and some luck can catapult any sports star into a commanding position among the elite.

Fleetwood is the master and the inspiration for so many golfers worldwide after his meteoric rise over the last 16 months.

In September 2016, he was struggling for form and languished around 188th in the world rankings.

At the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last year, he was two shots down on the final day and beat Johnson to kick-start a stunning season, which ended with him securing the Race to Dubai title.

Throw in nine top-10 finishes, including victory at the HNA Open de France, and it just goes to show what a win can do for any golfer mentally to boost belief in their game.

Fleetwood has proved time and time again that he is as clinical in those pressure situations as the likes of McIlroy and Johnson – and will be a tour de force for the rest of the season.

Although the duo may boast a more formidable world ranking and trophy cabinet, the Englishman is cementing his status at the top.

But for Fleetwood to become the standard-bearer of British golf, he needs to win a Major – only Justin Rose and Danny Willett have achieved this feat since Nick Faldo – and this means his short game will need improving.

In a Ryder Cup year, the Southport resident will have plenty of opportunities to iron out the weaker areas in his armoury as he bids to wrap up a spot on Thomas Bjorn’s team.

The way he carries himself on and off the course will certainly bode well for Team Europe in Paris – but consistency needs to be a priority if he is to convert his sparkling form on the grandest stages of them all.

His sizzling 65 in Abu Dhabi in tough conditions highlighted his remarkable talents and this should be another indicator to reinstate belief that he can be one of the top players in the world.

The journey rolls on. Next week will see him step out at Emirates Golf Club at the Dubai Desert Classic – alongside defending champion Sergio Garcia and McIlroy. His face deserves to be on as many billboards as those two.

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