Jan 21st, 2021
Perfect start for McIlroy in Abu Dhabi
Northern Irishman cards flawless eight-under-par round
Photography: Getty Images
The four-time Major winner is still chasing his maiden victory at the prestigious tournament, despite a remarkable record which includes four runner-up finishes, three third place finishes, a top-five and a top fifteen. But his opening 64 was his lowest ever round in 11 appearances at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
McIlroy carded two birdies in the opening three holes, having teed off at the par five 10th hole which he duly birdied, and coasted to six more in a flawless round which left him one stroke clear at the top.
" I knew 65 is the best I've shot here and I've shot it a few times, so I thought let's try to go one better on the next nine and I was able to do that," said McIlroy.
"Maybe played slightly better on our front nine, but I holed some really nice putts coming in for birdie s. It was obviously a lovely way to start the year."
Leading the chasing pack was three-time Rolex Series winner Tyrrell Hatton, who signed for a seven-under 65 which included a pair of eagles in his first nine holes – opening his account for the season with a three at the tenth before picking up another eagle at the ninth.
"I'm really happy with that. I think I got away with it, ten holes, I hit one fairway, so that wasn't ideal. The wind certainly picked up as the round went on, which I think the guys going out this afternoon, it's going to be a lot tougher for them," commented Hatton.
Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti was a shot further back on six under, while Frenchman Romain Langasque and Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain shared fifth place on five under. Defending champion and reigning Race to Dubai champion Lee Westwood opened with a three-under 69.
The play was suspended due to darkness with round one set to restart at 7:40 am local time.