European Ryder Cup Captain Luke Donald closed his opening round with four successive birdies to take the early lead at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the first Rolex Series event of the season.
The Englishman made the turn at four under par and dropped just one shot during his inward nine as that quartet of closing birdies saw him post an opening eight under par round of 64 at Yas Links Abu Dhabi.
The 45-year-old leads by one from Italy’s Guido Migliozzi, who won the Hero Cup as part of Team Continental Europe last week, and Australian Jason Scrivener, as the pair both opened with seven under rounds of 65 on Yas Island.
The morning groups enjoyed the better of the scoring with conditions more favourable, and it is Ireland’s Séamus Power, making his debut in this event, who lies fourth on six under par, with seven players a shot further back.
Two of those sitting on five under are Italian brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, both of whom shared the best round of the afternoon to sit three off the lead after 18 holes.
Darkness descended on Yas Links with round one incomplete, therefore those still with holes to play will return on Friday to finish their rounds. There is no change to round two tee times.
Luke Donald: “Just playing here the last couple days, I felt like there was some low scores out here as long as the wind didn't blow too hard. Just kind of suits my eye. It's not too tight off the tee. I think you have to pick some good lines.
“I think you're going to hit a lot of greens out here because you're going to hit a lot of fairways, too. I putted very nicely today other than one three-putt on the third hole for my only bogey. I made a lot of good putts. I made a couple long ones, but just was very tidy. I think maybe a little inspired by watching some good golf from last week.
“I actually came into this year with higher expectations than I had in a while just for my own game. You know when you're swinging reasonably well.
“I feel like I've done some good work on my long game with Jamie Gough, and I've done some good work with my short game with Pat Goss. And to be honest, I feel like my game is in a pretty good spot.
“It's not totally surprising that I shot 64 today. I went out there, again, last couple days, I've been hitting it nicely, swinging well, and it was nice to carry that on today.”
Jason Scrivener: “It was a really nice way to start the year. Yeah, a little scrappy at the start, and then kind of fought my way through it and had a few good breaks. Played really nicely the second half of the round.
“It's really tricky. I was talking to my caddie the first few holes, I was saying it feels weird the first few holes. It takes you a bit of time to work your way into the round. It's tricky, but couldn't ask for a better start.”
Guido Migliozzi: “It's always nice to hole a golf shot, and it's been a great day of golf. I played solid from tee-to-green. The eagle comes from a perfect driver in the middle of the fairway. The wind was hurting a little bit from the left, and I just had like a three-quarter solid 50 degrees and the ball just bounced a minute and a half past the pin and then back into it.
“I played great. I'm happy that I'm playing solid from tee-to-green as well. I was looking for this last week for me as well. It's been very important to test new equipment and new feelings on the course, and the work that I am doing and I did on the winter is working great.”
Séamus Power: “I just find that visually, that stretch kind of suits me a little bit better. Some of those holes, I'm a fader, so 16, 15, a couple of those holes are visually a little tougher for me. So once I got to 18 tee, I thought I might have a chance.
“It's one of those courses though with the greens, you just have to stay patient. You can hit pretty good shots and then not end up that close to the hole, and that happened to me a couple times on the back side. But I was able to take advantage of the front, and actually got a couple of chances really to get it going on 7 and 9 but overall, a lot golf stuff.
“It’s absolutely incredible. The surroundings and stuff are immaculate. If you can hit in the right spots you can get to any of the pins, and that's a good sign of a good course, and that's what I was able to do on the front there.”
Francesco Molinari: “It's obviously pretty good. The wind was up all day. Never really let down. I think it's a course that if you hit the ball well enough off the tee, you get a few chances. But yeah, it was nice obviously to keep a clean scorecard, a few birdies here and there. So some stuff to improve over the next few days but the score was really good.
“I think it feels different. I think it looks different but it was really today my first stroke-play round of the year, so feet on the ground. Like I said, there's still a few things I need to do better. I putted great today and that obviously reflects on the score but let's see what I can do in the coming days.
“Last week was great for my confidence, and just taking the responsibility of being a playing captain helped my game to mentally being ready on the first tee and stuff like that. So it's been a great start, a great start of the week today and just keeping going, try to improve what I can still improve and see where I can get to.”
Scores after day one:
64 L DONALD (ENG),
65 G MIGLIOZZI (ITA), J SCRIVENER (AUS),
66 S POWER (IRL),
67 E MOLINARI (ITA), F MOLINARI (ITA), M KAWAMURA (JPN), S LOWRY (IRL), S SHARMA (IND), S V?LIM?KI (FIN), S S?DERBERG (SWE),
68 G COETZEE (RSA), P HARRINGTON (IRL), A LEVY (FRA), C HILL (SCO), T FLEETWOOD (ENG), H STENSON (SWE), M LEE (AUS), C SYME (SCO), C HANNA (USA),
69 M KIEFFER (GER), L WESTWOOD (ENG), M KINHULT (SWE), R CABRERA BELLO (ESP), T BJ?RN (DEN), T OLESEN (DEN), A ROZNER (FRA), E FERGUSON (SCO), S TARRIO (ESP),
70 A MERONK (POL), P LARRAZ?BAL (ESP), J CAMPILLO (ESP), J CATLIN (USA), R MACINTYRE (SCO), M PAVON (FRA), A WU (CHN), R RAMSAY (SCO), K SAMOOJA (FIN), A HIDALGO (ESP),
71 R FOX (NZL), J DONALDSON (WAL), T LAWRENCE (RSA), A BJ?RK (SWE), N H?JGAARD (DEN), G FORREST (SCO), J BRUN (FRA), V PEREZ (FRA), M WALLACE (ENG), O STRYDOM (RSA), T PULKKANEN (FIN), I POULTER (ENG), S KJELDSEN (DEN), C SHINKWIN (ENG), M ARMITAGE (ENG), J MORRISON (ENG), N KIMSEY (ENG), M HELLIGKILDE (DEN),
72 A SULLIVAN (ENG), T HATTON (ENG), P REED (USA), D LAW (SCO), B WIESBERGER (AUT), D HILLIER (NZL), D BRADBURY (ENG), S CROCKER (USA), A KNAPPE (GER), N ELVIRA (ESP), M SOUTHGATE (ENG), A NOREN (SWE), M KORHONEN (FIN), S HORSFIELD (ENG), J RITCHIE (RSA), N VON DELLINGSHAUSEN (GER), T MCKIBBIN (NIR),
73 R MANSELL (ENG), J SMITH (ENG), A ARNAUS (ESP), J WINTHER (DEN), E PEPPERELL (ENG), W BESSELING (NED), T PIETERS (BEL), P WARING (ENG), A OTAEGUI (ESP), J LUITEN (NED), O BEKKER (RSA), L DE JAGER (RSA), N N?RGAARD (DEN),
74 O WILSON (ENG), F ZANOTTI (PAR), M SCHNEIDER (GER), D GAVINS (ENG),
75 D HUIZING (NED), S STRAKA (AUT), N COLSAERTS (BEL), Z LOMBARD (RSA), Y PAUL (GER), J WANG (KOR), J VEERMAN (USA), J JANEWATTANANOND (THA),
76 V DUBUISSON (FRA), J GUERRIER (FRA), M LINDBERG (SWE),
77 J DANTORP (SWE),
78 R FISHER (ENG), J KRUYSWIJK (RSA), H LONG (GER),
81 I ABOU EL ELA (AM) (EGY),
84 H LI (CHN),
OUT R BLAND (ENG), M WARREN (SCO), J LAGERGREN (SWE), G GREEN (MAS), Y LIU (CHN), H DU PLESSIS (RSA), J HARDING (RSA), D VAN DRIEL (NED), L NEMECZ (AUT), E FAKORI (AM) (MAR), D WHITNELL (ENG), J FREIBURGHAUS (SUI), O HUNDEB?LL (DEN), S JAMIESON (SCO), A COCKERILL (CAN), M JORDAN (ENG), F SCHOTT (GER), E KOFSTAD (NOR),