Stenson hits the ground running to take Abu Dhabi lead
Henrik Stenson maintained the high standards he set last year to open up a two-shot lead after the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Stenson gave himself plenty of time off ahead of the new season after winning the Race to Dubai for a second time two months ago, but there were no signs of rustiness from The Open champion on Thursday.
The world number four made a statement in his first competitive round of 2017, carding a blemish-free eight-under 64 to set the clubhouse lead.
Stenson has never shot a lower opening round in the European Tour tournament at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he birdied four of the first five holes after starting on the back nine.
"Must be all that short game practice I didn't do." pic.twitter.com/PwiPVTcIDL-- The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 19, 2017
Magnificent approach shots enabled the Olympic silver medallist to made further gains at the 17th and 18th, with another two birdies in his last three holes ensuring he is the man to catch.
The Swede, who has never won the event, said: "It must be the lack of practice that does it. Lack of sleep, lack of practice.
"I'm delighted with that score. I think I scored a bit better than what I played, but I kept it under control somewhat and hit a couple of close iron shots and made the putts. It wasn't too much stress out there."
Martin Kaymer gave himself a fighting chance of winning the title for a fourth time by starting with eight birdies, though bogeys at the second and 14th ultimately denied him a share of the lead.
Kaymer, Oliver Fisher, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Marc Warren are well poised in a share of second place. Rafa Cabrera Bello, Tyrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Julien Quesne are a shot further back.
U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson is eight shots adrift of Stenson, while European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn is four shots off the pace after an encouraging first Tour round since October.
Pleasantly surprised with my first round back since October! Felt much better than I was expecting. Hopefully more of the same tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/nYIcVl5Q8Y-- Thomas Bjørn (@thomasbjorngolf) January 19, 2017