Major Winners Harrington, Kaymer and McDowell in Chasing Pack
15 - November 2011
Abu Dhabi, UAE. 20th January 2011: A hole-in-one, a royal visit and a majestic eight-under-par 64 by Charl Schwartzel, the overnight leader, were among the many opening day highlights at the 2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, which runs until Sunday.
Ireland’s P?draig Harrington made the early running, entering the iconic Falcon clubhouse at 7-under par after a bogie-free round of 65 - a score which left the three-time Major winner only one stroke adrift of Schwartzel.
The South African, who claimed first day bragging rights thanks to a dramatic birdie on the 18th hole, heads a compact field at Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s National Course, with Alex Noren and Niclas Fasth, both of Sweden, and Graeme McDowell, the reigning U.S. Open winner, in a three-way tie for third at 6-under.
Schwartzel has always played well during the European Tour’s Desert Swing without ever having sealed one of the four Middle East championships. This time, and despite complaining of difficulties with his swing, he stormed through Abu Dhabi’s 7,590 yard National course.
“I went out and got off to a really good start,” said Schwartzel, who shot nine birdies. “I drove the ball well and gave myself lots of opportunities and converted most of my chances. It was just a really solid round.
“I’ve been struggling with my swing for a while and around a course like this, it’s not the best thing to be doing that. But it worked well for me today.”
Harrington’s error-free round secured his own strong start to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, which this year offers a prize fund of US$2.7 million – up US$500,000 on 2010 and the highest purse of any Desert Swing tournament.
“You know, it’s nice to go bogey-free but I think I’m more pleased with the 65,” said Harrington. “I was very good mentally through the day and I hit the right shots at the right times. I hit a lot of particularly good shots when I had to.”
Martin Kaymer, one of four reigning Major victors in this year’s field and the winner of Wednesday’s pre-tournament Pro-Am, showed glimpses of the form that has made him a two-time Falcon trophy winner with a solid start. The German, chasing the Championship’s first hat-trick of wins, finished the day tied-sixth place after a five-under-par 67.
“It was good,” said the U.S. PGA champion from Dusseldorf. “Five-under-par is a fantastic start to the season and I think I’ve put myself in a good position already. I don’t have to worry about the cut, and that’s a good thing.
“I played fantastic golf; my putting was good and the shots I hit towards the green were a little more precise than I was expecting. I was very happy with my ball striking today.”
Elsewhere on the course, Denmark’s S?ren Kjeldsen hit a magnificent hole-in-one to become the first player in the 2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship to record an ace, and only the fourth in the event’s six-year history to achieve the feat.
Following on from Francesco Molinari’s stunning shot on the fourth hole in last year’s Championship, the Dane holed out on the par-three seventh to earn an eagle on the scorecard and a Cadillac CTS coupé from one of the Championship’s sponsors.
“It felt good,” said Kjeldsen, who shot 3-under par round of 69. “I hit it 173 years to the pin; it came in off the right and then rolled nice and gently into the hole. I wasn’t thinking about it until my playing partners [Scott Strange and John Bickerton] started shouting: ‘Go in! Go in!’ ”
Away from the on-course action, Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden visited Abu Dhabi Golf Club and wished the best of luck to her countrymen, Noren, Henrik Stenson and Johan Edfors.
Accompanied by the Swedish Ambassador to the UAE, Princess Victoria visited the driving range and then the VIP pavilion overlooking the eighteenth hole.
Play will resume for day two tomorrow, with the first group teeing off at 7.20am. Tickets for the Championship are AED125 for a daily pass and AED400 for a four-day pass. Preferential rates of AED100 and AED300, respectively, apply to EGF members. Children under 18 will be admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Car parking is free during the Championship.
Tickets are available via the event’s official website, www.abudhabihsbcgolfchampionship.com, as well as online at www.timeouttickets.com and www.itptickets.com. Phone bookings can be made through the ITP toll-free hotline 800 4669, or for international visitors, +971 4 210 8943.
Also, look out for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship Facebook fan page - www.Facebook.com/AbuDhabiHSBCGolfChampionship2011 - which has a whole host of competitions and is full of information about the tournament and golfers in attendance. Our Twitter feed – www.twitter.com/AbuDhabiGC - provides up-to-the-minute news and scores.
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is backed by a high-profile sponsorship line-up that also includes Etihad Airways, Al Naboodah, Emirates Palace hotel, Etisalat, Cadillac, Airbus, Xerox, CNN and Rolex.