Nine days ago he was celebrating a share of third place with Rory McIlroy and taking home a cheque for €138,024 (Dh630,000). This week, Matt Fitzpatrick has only a missed cut and empty pockets to take away with him from the UAE.
His 2018 began in scintillating form at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the Sheffield native shooting an -18 under par 270, just four shots behind champion Tommy Fleetwood.
But while McIlroy went on to contend for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic title a week after Abu Dhabi, eventually finishing second, a few “freak” occurrences left Fitzpatrick flitting around the Emirates ahead of participating in Monday’s Gary Player Invitational.
Despite going from high to low so quickly, the 23-year-old isn’t letting himself get too downtrodden by his performance.
“I feel like my game’s in good shape, I’ve got a bit of time to work hard at it again now and get it going for the rest of the year,” Fitzpatrick, a member of Europe’s 2016 Ryder Cup squad, said at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.
“I had a bad Thursday. One bad hole Friday, I chipped into the water that cost me a double bogey, I don’t do that.
“I could have saved four shots just like that and, before you know it, I’m three shots inside the cut line and pushing to stay for the weekend. It was a freak day Thursday and a freak shot Friday.”
Despite carding a +1 over par opening round of 73 following four bogeys, Fitzpatrick recovered on Friday to shoot a fairly flawless 67, apart from a double bogey on four when he found water.
He missed the cut despite a total of -4 under and added: “It was disappointing. A few bad holes cost me on the Thursday. It was good to see the scores so low but it would have been nice to see a bit more rough. But I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Fitzpatrick has fond memories of Dubai, he won his third European Tour title at the 2016 DP World Tour Championship, held at Jumeirah Golf Estates. And he insists his Emirates Golf Club woes won’t sour his achievements in the city.
He added: “It’s not soured Dubai for me. It’s early in the year, the second event on the calendar. It’s a long season. If I win events now it’ll go straight out of my mind. Put it out of my mind and it’s now time to work on my game and get it sharp.”
Li Haotong pipped Rory McIlroy to the Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club by a single shot – and the stats show there is one part of his game that ultimately clinched the title.
Li was ranked nowhere when it came to length off the tee and greens in regulation – but when it came to putting, there was nobody better.
Over the course of 72 holes, Li ranked 13th in distance of the tee at an average of 303.9 yards, and an astonishing 47th when it came to greens in regulation, with just 65%.
Compare this to McIlroy, whose impressive long game saw him ranked first off the tee with an average of more than 321 yards. This was followed up with a not-so-impressive 27th for greens in regulation (70.8%), but the advantage certainly lay with the Northern Irishman.
But it was on the short grass that Li took over taking an average of just 1.49 putts per green, and needing just 23.8 putts per round over the four day – both figures ranking him first in the field.
McIlroy on the other hand, required 1.7 putts per hole (rank 40), and 27 putt per round (rank 27)
Driving for show, putting for dough indeed.
Add to this the fact Li never once dropped a shot when he found the sand, a 100 per cent save-rate, compared to 60 per cent from McIlroy and we can see that it was the Chinese star’s short game that took him to the title in Dubai.
Since then, he’s plummeted down the rankings. From his highest of 29th in February 2016, he’s dropped to 145th. That will likely rise when the new rankings are released following a tied sixth finish at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic last weekend.
But Sullivan freely admits he let his standards slip following “too much success, too soon”, something he is determined not to let happen again as he eyes a return to the top.
“I just didn’t work hard enough,” Sullivan, 31, told Sport360, bluntly, following a -16 under par 272 that earned him a €47,401 (Dh216,359) Dubai payday. A bogey on the last robbed him of double that.
“I got to a Ryder Cup pretty quickly and won tournaments pretty quickly and I think I took my foot off the gas. I’ve just got to keep working really hard because these boys are ready to overtake you straight away.
“I definitely did (let my standards slip), I put my hands up to that. You’ve got to keep working hard and credit to Rory (McIlroy) and the guys at the top, they keep working harder and getting better.
“You learn from your mistakes and I’m going to continue to work hard and keep myself up there.
“You get that feeling of being in the last few groups and having a sniff. It didn’t quite happen (on Sunday) but it’s nice to be in there and the more you do it, the more comfortable it feels.
“It’s something I didn’t do and I’ve had to take a few steps back to get where I want to go.”
Where the Englishman wants to go is to a second Ryder Cup, after getting a taste of golf’s greatest competition two years ago in Hazeltine.
Sullivan’s first win on tour came in January 2015 at the South African Open. Success quickly followed with wins at the Joburg Open in March and October’s Portugal Masters – the first player to record three victories on tour that year.
He was one of eight automatic selections on captain Darren Clarke’s team as Europe lost 17-11 – handing America victory for the first time since 2008.
And he’s desperate to get back there, as well as make up for lost time.
“Everything’s going in the right direction,” he said.
“I’m starting to get back to my best. I feel like my game’s in really solid shape, it’s confidence going forward and hopefully I can take that into what I’m doing for the rest of the season and make a push for this Ryder Cup.
“Once you’ve played one you don’t want to miss any. I want to play as many as I can. I know it’s going to be a tough ask for me to get in. I will have to put in a lot of good performances between now and July/August, but the game’s going in the right direction.
“I feel a lot more comfortable on the golf course now than I did at the end of last year. I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I put a lot of hard work in over the seven weeks I had off, have come back a lot stronger and fitter and I’m ready to go.
“It’s a nice feeling because I didn’t enjoy it much last year and now the game’s coming back I’m starting to enjoy it again which is only going to help me play my best golf.”