Amateur Bryson DeChambeau leads the 2016 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship following his fantastic eight-under 64 in Thursday's opening round.
The 22-year-old has some major names in pursuit at the European Tour event, with Henrik Stenson just a shot back and Rory McIlroy lying ominously on six under.
World No. 1 Jordan Spieth shot a 68 playing with McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler, the third in the auspicious Day 1 group, finished on two under.
Here is how the top of the leaderboard looks after Day 1:
|Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship: Thursday Leaderboard|
|#||Player||Score||Day 1 Score|
The full leaderboard can be accessed at the European Tour's official website.
DeChambeau's opening three holes were unspectacular, as he went par-par-bogey, but as soon as he wrestled back to even with a two on the fourth, he settled down.
Another birdie came at the fifth before he eagled the par-five eighth, having run a 3-wood through a bunker to 20 feet. A birdie on the ninth saw him out in 32, and another four on the par-five 10th made it four under par for the three holes around the turn.
Back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14 and a final gained shot on the last hole meant DeChambeau finished with a 64.
The U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion said after his round that he has no expectations for the coming week, per the Associated Press (via the Daily Mail):
There's no expectations. I'm not worried about anything. If I hit a bad shot I've got an opportunity to show my grace and my character. In that situation, there's no downside to it. ...
... I never try to set goals. I'm more of a journey man. I like focusing on the journey process. I'm an intern. I've learned to believe in myself. That's the ticket. It happened at the NCAAs and I'm just growing that confidence, that belief each and every single day. Today definitely helped.
It would be quite a remarkable feat for DeChambeau to retain his lead until Sunday, as there is a brilliant field in Abu Dhabi, not least McIlroy, playing in his first event of the year.
Starting early at the 10th, the world No. 3 birdied his opening two holes to make the perfect start. He was unaffected by two subsequent bogeys on his front nine and registered eight birdies in all. The Northern Irishman looked assured off the tee and sharp on the greens, despite two three-putts, per the European Tour:
The European Tour @EuropeanTour
12 holes. 7 birdies. https://t.co/8JypQwhvwg1/21/2016, 6:54:28 AM
Stenson's round was masterful considering he had knee surgery just six weeks ago.
Per the European Tour, his iron play was phenomenal, as he had just one bogey—on the ninth—in his whole round:
The European Tour @EuropeanTour
FYI, Henrik Stenson was dialled in today. 💯 https://t.co/k6Ui2UEbX01/21/2016, 9:15:49 AM
Branden Grace was the best of the late starters, with the South African shooting a 66 to tie for third with McIlroy. He carded six birdies in his opening 10 holes and looked to be closing in on DeChambeau, but a more barren final eight—bogey on 14, birdie on 16—saw him fall slightly short of the leader.
Spieth is very much in contention after carding a 68. The American described the greens as "about as pure as any I've ever putted on," per the European Tour.
Meanwhile, two-time major winner Martin Kaymer sits five back from DeChambeau, having posted 32 on his first nine, only to come back in 37.
The quality on show in Abu Dhabi is incredible, but for now, it is the relatively unknown amateur who leads the pack, with the more established stars snapping at his heels.
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