De Chambeau bullish as Pieters takes first round lead in Dubai

Pádraig Harrington pick of the Irish contingent in opening round of Desert Classic

Bryson DeChambeau believes he will possess a “scary combo” of distance and accuracy if he can get the latter under control after starting the defence of his Omega Dubai Desert Classic title with an opening 70.

DeChambeau carded a winning total of 24 under par as he cruised to a seven-shot victory last year, but a repeat of such scoring appears unlikely at a venue boasting narrower fairways and thicker rough.

Only 29 players in the 132-strong field at Emirates Golf Club managed to break par, with Belgium’s Thomas Pieters leading the way with a five-under-par 67 to hold a one-shot lead over American David Lipsky.

Pádraig Harrington was the pick of the Irish contingent on Thursday, as he began his week with a one under par round of 71. He sits four strokes off the lead with Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell a shot further back after they recorded level par efforts.


Meanwhile England’s Eddie Pepperell was part of a 12-man group on three under, with DeChambeau a stroke further back following a round containing four birdies and two bogeys.

“It’s playing at least four shots harder a day (than last year) if it was to stay like this, no doubt,” the world number 17 told Sky Sports. “The fairways are tightened up.

“It’s a very, very good test of golf and you have to make sure your wedge game is on and your iron play out of the rough is on because you’re going to be in there.

“I’m still working on the driver, it’s a work in progress, but it will be a work in progress until I can get the right stuff in my hands.”

DeChambeau opted to add considerable muscle mass during the off-season in a bid to increase the distance he hits the ball and feels it is a move which will pay significant dividends.

“The shot I hit on five, it was off line but it was still so far up there that I had a wedge in my hand,” DeChambeau said of a wayward tee shot which still led to a birdie.

“At six I hit it 350 (yards) just into the first cut. I hit it really far, I can do that and now it’s just about controlling it and if I can control it it’s going to be a scary combo.”

Pieters has always been one of the longest hitters in the game but it was the former Ryder Cup star’s iron play which proved crucial as he raced to the turn in 32 and then recovered from dropping three shots in two holes with a hat-trick of birdies from the fifth.

“My drivers and three woods weren’t very good today but somehow I found the greens and if I did hit a fairway I took advantage of it,” said Pieters, who won a record four points on his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine in 2016.

“I played the par threes very well which means I’m hitting my irons good as I did last week and I just rolled in a few putts, which was nice.

“I’ve been working on my putting really hard and wanted to see some progress. I saw that today and hopefully we can keep it up. I’m looking forward to the next three days.”

Former Masters champion Sergio Garcia is four shots off the lead alongside Harrington after a round of 71, while pre-tournament favourite Tommy Fleetwood struggled to a 75.

Collated first round scores & totals in the European Tour Omega Dubai Desert Classic (Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72):

67 Thomas Pieters (Bel)

68 David Lipsky (USA)

69 Eddie Pepperell (Eng), Shaun Norris (Rsa), Kurt Kitayama (USA), Ashun Wu (Chn), Robert Karlsson (Swe), Romain Langasque (Fra), Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn), Kalle Samooja (Fin), Soeren Kjeldsen (Den), Dean Burmester (Rsa), Matthieu Pavon (Fra), Lucas Herbert (Aus)

70 Bryson DeChambeau (USA), Erik van Rooyen (Rsa), Romain Wattel (Fra), Sebastian Heisele (Ger)

71 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Sergio Garcia (Spa), Ian Poulter (Eng), Sebastian Soederberg (Swe), Justin Harding (Rsa), Padraig Harrington (Irl), Viktor Hovland (Nor), Jayden Schaper (Rsa), Zander Lombard (Rsa), Jack Singh-Brar (Eng), Julien Guerrier (Fra)

72 Shane Lowry (Irl), Henrik Stenson (Swe), Martin Kaymer (Ger), Joost Luiten (Ned), Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa), Graeme McDowell (NIrl), Tae-Hee Lee (Kor), Benjamin Hebert (Fra), Matthias Schwab (Aut), Adria Arnaus (Spa), Jordan Smith (Eng), Sean Crocker (USA), Sam Horsfield (Eng), Adrian Otaegui (Spa), Oliver Fisher (Eng)

73 Victor Perez (Fra), Tom Lewis (Eng), Brandon Stone (Rsa), Pablo Larrazabal (Spa), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa), Stephen Gallacher (Sco), Scott Hend (Aus), Thomas Detry (Bel), Richie Ramsay (Sco), Ignacio Elvira (Spa), Gavin Green (Mal), Renato Paratore (Ita),

73 Grant Forrest (Sco), Callum Shinkwin (Eng), Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin), Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind),

74 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng), Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Wade Ormsby (Aus), Niklas Noergaard Moeller (Den), Matthiam Keyser (Rsa), Robert MacIntyre (Sco), Michael Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), Matthew Southgate (Eng), Scott Jamieson (Sco), Nino Bertasio (Ita), David Drysdale (Sco), Robert Rock (Eng), Thomas Aiken (Rsa)

75 Tommy Fleetwood (Eng), Marcus Kinhult (Swe), Rasmus Hoejgaard (Den), Guido Migliozzi (Ita), David Law (Sco), Richard Sterne (Rsa), Joachim B. Hansen (Den), Oliver Wilson (Eng), Alvaro Quiros (Spa), Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry), Ross Fisher (Eng), Ashley Chesters (Eng), Lorenzo Gagli (Ita), Haydn Porteous (Rsa), James Morrison (Eng)

76 Bernd Wiesberger (Aut), Danny Willett (Eng), Jazz Janewattananond (Tha), Rafael Cabrera (Spa), Andrea Pavan (Ita), Jorge Campillo (Spa), Ryan Fox (Nzl), Benjamin Poke (Den), Andrew Johnston (Eng), Chris Paisley (Eng), Edoardo Molinari (Ita), Jeff Winther (Den)

77 Matt Wallace (Eng), Steven Brown (Eng), Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), Aaron Rai (Eng), Paul Waring (Eng), Alexander Bjoerk (Swe), Shubhankar Sharma (Ind), Paul Lawrie (Sco), Joshua Hill (Eng), Jason Scrivener (Aus), Maximilian Kieffer (Ger), David Horsey (Eng)

78 Lee Westwood (Eng), Richard McEvoy (Eng), Haotong Li (Chn), Daniel Gaunt (Eng), Justin Walters (Rsa)

79 Chris Wood (Eng), Ahmed Marjan (Mor), Joakim Lagergren (Swe), Jeung-Hun Wang (Kor), Raphael Jacquelin (Fra)

80 Harry Konig (Eng), David Howell (Eng)

81 Shugo Imahira (Jpn), Alexander Levy (Fra), Victor Dubuisson (Fra)

82 George Coetzee (Rsa)

83 Graeme Storm (Eng), Othman Almulla (Sau)