IT was a case for what might have been for Holmes Chapel resident Tommy Fleetwood as he kicked off his 2021 season in the United Arab Emirates.

He had been in contention for victory right the way through the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship among a high-class field of rivals.

However, he fell away towards the end and was forced to watch on as fellow Englishman Tyrell Hatton claimed victory on 18 under par.

After a solid start on Thursday, Fleetwood made his moves on Friday and Saturday with successive five-under-par rounds of 67.

He even led the tournament at one stage during Saturday’s third round and even during the closing stages on Sunday, he remained in contention.

He birdied three of the first nine holes to move to within one shot of the lead, but a bogey on the 16th followed by a double-bogey at the 17th ended his challenge as he finished on 10 under par – eight shots behind 2018 Ryder Cup teammate Hatton.

The world number 19 is next in action this weekend at the Dubai Desert Classic which starts on Thursday.

The Abu Dhabi tournament was the first chance for Fleetwood and his fellow hopefuls to gain qualifying points to make the European team for the Ryder Cup later this year.

The 30-year-old, who made his Ryder Cup debut in the 2018 win over the United States in Paris, is currently in the qualifying positions after points gained between September 2019 and March last year were banked.

Despite tournaments returning following the Covid-19 pandemic, point scoring was stopped until this year so now, the race to be in the team picked by captain Padraig Harrington to face the USA at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in September intensifies.

To ensure Harrington’s team is made up of the most in-form players, points for both lists will be multiplied by 1.5 until early May.

Thereafter, through to the final qualifying event - September’s BMW PGA at Wentworth - points will be doubled.