Saturday 23 September 2017

Ireland's Paul Dunne off to a fine start in Abu Dhabi

Paul Dunne of Ireland looks over the second green during the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
Paul Dunne of Ireland looks over the second green during the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Harry Clarke

Ireland's Paul Dunne produced a brilliant birdie blitz to card a solid first round 68 in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The Wicklow man was level after the first seven holes after seven successive pars but went through the following six at -5.

Dunne birdied the par-five eighth, parred the ninth before birdies on 11, 12, 13 and 14. A bogey five on the par-four 17th was his only dropped shot in fine round.

European number one Henrik Stenson made light of his lack of preparation with a stunning opening round.

The Open champion has spent more time skiing than playing golf since finishing second in the Hero World Challenge in December, a fortnight after winning the Race to Dubai for the second time in four years.

But the 40-year-old Swede showed no signs of rust as he raced to the top of the leaderboard with a flawless 64.

"It must be that lack of practice that does it," Stenson said after starting on the 10th and racing to the turn in 30, before picking up further shots on the seventh and ninth.

"Lack of sleep, lack of practice, but I'm obviously delighted with that score. I think I scored a bit better than I played but I kept it under control somewhat, hit a couple of close iron shots and made the putts.

Henrik Stenson of Sweden tees off on the 12th hole
Henrik Stenson of Sweden tees off on the 12th hole

"Wasn't too much stress out there after all."

Asked how much practice he had done in the off-season, the world number four told Sky Sports: "I was working on my putting, some short game, hit a couple of buckets last week and then flew to Sweden (on Monday).

"I was there for the sports awards, came down here on Tuesday morning, so very limited preparations. That might be the way forward."

At eight under par, Stenson held a two-shot lead over three-time winner and Ryder Cup team-mate Martin Kaymer, whose 66 was matched by England's Oliver Fisher and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

England's Tyrrell Hatton was a shot further back, with Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on four under after six birdies and two bogeys in a 68.

Defending champion Rickie Fowler and fellow American Dustin Johnson had to settle for opening rounds of 72, while Masters champion Danny Willett struggled to a 74 which included a triple-bogey seven on the 14th.

Additional reporting by PA

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