Shane Lowry gets in the groove with 67 to trail hot Jamieson by four

Rory McIlroy ‘a little bit rusty’ after opening with 72 in Abu Dhabi

 Shane Lowry  and Rasmus Hojgaard of  help Ian Poulter  look for his ball in the water on the 16th hole during the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Yas Links Golf Course. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Shane Lowry and Rasmus Hojgaard of help Ian Poulter look for his ball in the water on the 16th hole during the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Yas Links Golf Course. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

 

Shane Lowry may have wintered well but he showcased that his touch around the greens hadn’t deserted him, highlighted by a chip-in birdie on the 15th – which brought a theatrical bow and removal of his Srixon cap – on his return to competition in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Yas Links in the United Arab Emirates.

An opening round 67, five under par, saw Lowry mark his first competitive round of the year by navigating his way into the top-10 of the €7 million Rolex Series event where Scotland’s Scott Jamieson’s flawless course-record 63 earned him the first-round leadership.

Viktor Hovland, a winner of two of his last three tournaments, again showed his pedigree with a superb 64 to lie one adrift of Jamieson but it proved to be a frustrating opening round for both Collin Morikawa, the world number two, and Rory McIlroy.

While Morikawa struggled to a one-over-part 73 that included a double-bogey five on the eighth hole, McIlroy – who also had water troubles after putting his approach to the ninth, his closing hole, into the lake – ultimately signed for a level-par 72.

Rory McIlroy hits his second shot on the seventh hole during the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Yas Links Golf Course. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy hits his second shot on the seventh hole during the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Yas Links Golf Course. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

“I was a little bit rusty and a little inefficient with the scoring aspects of things,” admitted McIlroy, adding: “It’s the first day of a new season and there is still a long way to go, not just in the tournament but in the year ahead . . . I just didn’t have my scoring boots on.”

Lowry got off to a slow start with pars on this opening three holes but kick-started his effort with a birdie on the par-three fourth, the first of six birdies he would register. The Offalyman got into a hot streak around the turn, with four birdies in five holes from the seventh including a hat-trick from the ninth to the 11th.

Competing for the first time since a top-10 finish at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last November, Lowry grew into the round and the highlight was a chip-in from off the green on the 15th to a difficult pin placement.

Pádraig Harrington had a mixed round of three birdies and four bogeys in opening with a 73, to lie in tied-90th, while Jonathan Caldwell was three over through 15 holes when play was suspended due to fading light.

Jamieson’s only tournament win came in the 2012 Nelson Mandela Championship and the Scot – ranked 336th in the world – put on a masterclass in taking advantage of his early start by claiming nine birdies to claim the outright lead.

“This is the first off-season I haven’t actually peeled the skin back and try to figure out how to get better. Felt like the game was in a good place finishing in Dubai and just missed out on a top-10 there. I’ve been driving it a lot better the last few events of the year last year, so no, I was pretty comfortable where my game was. I just had to hope that it turned up again eight weeks’ later,” said Jamieson of hitting the ground running.

In contrast, Hovland – winner of the Mayakoba Classic and the Hero World Challenge at the tail-end of last year – and the world number eight continued his impressive form with a round of nine birdies and just one dropped shot, where he missed a short putt on the 12th. His birdies in an impressive show of shot-making came at the second, third, sixth, seventh and eighth (to turn in 31) and then on the 15th, 16th and 18th.

“I didn’t hit the best shots early on but managed to get away with it and made a bunch of putts, and that obviously helped get over the jet-lag . . . . you’ve got to be very disciplined because there’s some tricky pins and [if] you get a little greedy and miss on the wrong sides, you just don’t have a shot. Even though it’s important to get a low one [in the opening round], big thing was only making one bogey. That was good,” said Hovland.

Leaderboard

British and Irish unless stated, par 72 – Play suspended due to darkness with six groups to finish.

63 Scott Jamieson,

64 Viktor Hovland (Nor)

65 Thomas Pieters (Bel)

66 Tyrrell Hatton, Takumi Kanaya (Jpn), Ian Poulter, Victor Perez (Fra), James Morrison,

67 Shane Lowry, Thomas Detry (Bel), Charl Schwartzel (Rsa)

68 Tommy Fleetwood, Alexander Bjoerk (Swe), Dale Whitnell, Robert Rock

69 Robert MacIntyre, Bernd Wiesberger (Aut), Rafael Cabrera (Esp), Nicolai Hoejgaard (Den), Sami Valimaki (Fin), Erik van Rooyen (Rsa), Andrea Pavan (Ita), Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Justin Harding (Rsa), Ashun Wu (Chn), Kristoffer Broberg (Swe), Daniel Gavins, Adrian Meronk (Pol), Francesco Laporta (Ita), Alexander Levy (Fra), David Law, Marcus Helligkilde (Den), Julien Brun (Fra),

70 Adam Scott (Aus), Rasmus Hoejgaard (Den), Pablo Larrazabal (Esp), Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), Joachim B. Hansen (Den), Marcus Armitage, Thomas Bjorn (Den), Shubhankar Sharma (Ind), Matthew Jordan, David Horsey, Matthew Southgate, Connor Syme, Victor Dubuisson (Fra), Jack Singh-Brar, Soeren Kjeldsen (Den), Santiago Tarrio (Esp), Frederic Lacroix (Fra)

71 Lee Westwood, Min-Woo Lee (Aus), Thorbjoern Olesen (Den), Richard Bland, Dean Burmester (Rsa), Jeff Winther (Den), Daniel van Tonder (Rsa), Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn), Josh Hill, Laurie Canter, Adria Arnaus (Esp), Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry), Richie Ramsay, Callum Shinkwin, Richard Sterne (Rsa), Daan Huizing (Ned)

72 Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson (Swe), Danny Willett, Matthias Schwab (Aut), Ryan Fox (Nzl), Matt Wallace, Wil Besseling (Ned), George Coetzee (Rsa), Romain Langasque (Fra), Espen Kofstad (Nor)

73 Collin Morikawa (USA), Garrick Higgo (Rsa), Steven Brown, Grant Forrest, Pádraig Harrington, Edoardo Molinari (Ita), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Wade Ormsby (Aus), Maverick Antcliff (Aus), Chris Paisley, David Drysdale, Ricardo Gouveia (Por)

74 Brandon Stone (Rsa), Scott Hend (Aus), Jason Scrivener (Aus), Jamie Donaldson, Sam Horsfield, Sean Crocker (USA), Andy Sullivan, Alejandro Canizares (Esp), Justin Walters (Rsa), Marc Warren, Darren Fichardt (Rsa), Thongchai Jaidee (Tha)

75 Antoine Rozner (Fra), Colin Montgomerie, Maximilian Kieffer (Ger), Matthias Schmid (Ger), Renato Paratore (Ita)

76 Paul Waring, Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin), Nino Bertasio (Ita)

78 Chris Wood, Guido Migliozzi (Ita)

79 Ahmed Alb Musharrekh (UAE), Joost Luiten (Ned)

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