Flawless Fleetwood ahead in Abu Dhabi; India’s Shubhankar Sharma tied for 55th
Abu Dhabi, January 18: Tommy Fleetwood made the perfect start to his defence of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, hitting all 18 greens in regulation in a bogey-free six under par opening round of 66.
The Race to Dubai champion, whose victory at Abu Dhabi Golf Club 12 months ago sparked a superb 2017 season on the European Tour, continued his impressive run of form, outscoring his illustrious playing partners, World Number One Dustin Johnson and four-time Major Champion Rory McIlroy, by six shots and three shots respectively.
Meanwhile, India’s Shubhankar Sharma, who is sponsored by Take Solutions, DLF and Indorama Ventures Plc, started off with three massive and magical par saves from the bunker, then almost holed his tee shot on the par-3 15th, then played solid before making a three-putt bogey on his 16th en route to a one-under-par 71 for a tied for 55th position alongside Justin Rose. Shubhankar goes out at 7:20 am from the 1st tee for his second round.
After opening with a birdie on the tenth hole, Fleetwood posted two more on his front nine, before picking up a further three shots after the turn to share the lead with Japan’s Hideto Tanihara, one shot clear of Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, both of whom finished their rounds of 67 in spectacular style with a birdie on the 17th hole followed by an eagle on the 18th. Also in a share of third place on five under par are Australia’s Sam Brazel, England’s Ross Fisher and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger.
“It was very good. Very stress-free. I played really well from start to finish. It felt like I did what you need to do well around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons well, but you can’t really be too greedy all the time. Then my pace putting was really good. I just basically did what you need to do to get a good score around the golf course,” said Fleetwood.
“I think during my career, I think I’m going to struggle to find a better three ball, really. It doesn’t matter how long I play. That might be the best one I get.
“It’s great. All you can do is concentrate on your own game and that’s kind of what you always do is you set out to play the best you can. I don’t know what I’ll do in my career and nobody knows what the future holds, but I think these two might be going down in the history books, so it will be nice to say that I played these two in a three-ball.”
McIlroy made a steady return to action after a four-month absence with 11 straight pars, before picking up three birdies in his closing seven holes to sign for a three under par round of 69. In contrast, Johnson mixed four birdies with four bogeys in his level par round of 72.
“I sort of knew what I was expecting out there but at the same time, you never really know. It was my first competitive round in over a hundred days, so it’s a little bit different. But I did well. I stayed patient. I gave myself loads of chances and started the day with 11 straight pars, so I was trying to stay as patient as possible, so it was nice to birdie three of the last seven there and get in under 70,” said McIlroy.
“I was probably a little nervous on the first tee. I had no problems last night or this morning. That was all fine. But yeah, I was just excited to get going. It’s another season, a season that I feel like I’m as prepared for as any season I’ve started as a professional.
“It was a great pairing to go out with, with Dustin and Tommy. Tommy had one of the best years out of anyone last year, winning The Race to Dubai and having a few wins. DJ is obviously No. 1 player in the world. So, to see where I’m at compared to where they are, it was nice.”
Round one scores (par 72)
66 T Fleetwood (Eng) , H Tanihara (Jpn) ,
67 S Brazel (Aus) , T Pieters (Bel) , R Fisher (Eng) , F Zanotti (Par) , B Wiesberger (Aut) ,
68 O Fisher (Eng) , P Dunne (Irl) , M Ilonen (Fin) , A Johnston (Eng) , C Pigem (Esp) , S Gallacher (Sco) , R Sterne (RSA) , M Fitzpatrick (Eng) , R Ramsay (Sco) ,
69 T Olesen (Den) , C Paisley (Eng) , J Luiten (Ned) , D Frittelli (RSA) , J Scrivener (Aus) , B Stone (RSA) , J Campillo (Esp) , L Slattery (Eng) , T Hatton (Eng) , S Vincent (Zim) , K Broberg (Swe) , A Levy (Fra) , J Lagergren (Swe) , T Immelman (RSA) , N Colsaerts (Bel) , R McIlroy (Nir) , D Burmester (RSA) , M Kaymer (Ger) , R Wattel (Fra) , A Björk (Swe) ,
70 T Detry (Bel) , P Casey (Eng) , P Waring (Eng) , G Havret (Fra) , A Otaegui (Esp) , A Chesters (Eng) , N Bertasio (Ita) , L Jensen (Den) , R Fox (Nzl) , A Quiros (Esp) , M Manassero (Ita) , A Sullivan (Eng) , P Hanson (Swe) , H Stenson (Swe) , G McDowell (Nir) , K Aphibarnrat (Tha) , D Im (USA) , T Aiken (RSA) ,
71 J Rose (Eng) , W Ashun (Chn) , A Cañizares (Esp) , S Hend (Aus) , B An (Kor) , P Larrazábal (Esp) , C Hanson (Eng) , R Karlsson (Swe) , D Lipsky (USA) , G Bourdy (Fra) , S Sharma (Ind) , J Wang (Kor) , M Wallace (Eng) , M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) ,
72 B Hebert (Fra) , R Cabrera Bello (Esp) , R Jacquelin (Fra) , D Johnson (USA) , M Kuchar (USA) , D Horsey (Eng) , G Coetzee (RSA) , L Bjerregaard (Den) , D Brooks (Eng) , A Connelly (Can) , A Romero (Arg) , H Porteous (RSA) , E Pepperell (Eng) , B Grace (RSA) , R Gouveia (Por) , J Smith (Eng) , G Stal (Fra) , A Wall (Eng) , D Drysdale (Sco) , S Kjeldsen (Den) ,
73 J Norris (Aus) , T Bjørn (Den) , Z Lombard (RSA) , M Kieffer (Ger) , T Jaidee (Tha) , M Warren (Sco) , D Fichardt (RSA) , L Haotong (Chn) , J Donaldson (Wal) , M Korhonen (Fin) , W Ormsby (Aus) , S Han (USA) , C Shinkwin (Eng) ,
74 E Molinari (Ita) , R Bland (Eng) , M Southgate (Eng) , G Storm (Eng) , S Lee (Kor) , L Westwood (Eng) , T Buchanan (Sco) , C Wood (Eng) , R Rock (Eng) , B Dechambeau (USA) , P Lawrie (Sco) , N Elvira (Esp) , D Kirkwood (am) (Eng) ,
75 J Morrison (Eng) , I Poulter (Eng) , J Kruyswijk (RSA) , S Jamieson (Sco) , M Siem (Ger) ,
76 R Paratore (Ita) , E Els (RSA) , A Dodt (Aus) ,
77 P Khongwatmai (Tha) , M Pavon (Fra) ,
78 J Olazábal (Esp) ,
86 A Al Musharrekh (Uae) , ,
With inputs from Joy Chakravarty and European Tour Media