PROWLING TIGER HUNTS ABU DHABI GLORY
03 - February 2012
Woods Draws Record ‘Fan-tastic Friday’ Crowds as a Clutch of ‘Giants’ Lurk Behind Leader Olesen
Abu Dhabi, UAE. Friday 27 January, 2012: The ‘Tiger Woods Effect’ was in full swing at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship today, as record crowds descended on a sun-drenched Abu Dhabi Golf Club to watch the 14-Major winning American and his playing partners, Luke Donald, the world number one, and Rory McIlroy, the reigning US Open champion, feature in a memorable ‘Fan-tastic Friday’ grouping.
Woods, making his Abu Dhabi debut, did not disappoint. With thousands of spectators creating a 10-person deep human wall from tee to green on the 1st hole, the throng of fans followed the eye-catching marquee group throughout the afternoon.
“What a sight - that crowd will go down in Championship history",said Faisal Al Sheikh, Event Manager, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, the tournament organiser. “We knew Tiger’s undeniable appeal would boost spectator numbers; he has tremendous pulling power and is playing with confidence and a sparkle in his eye."
When Woods reached the clubhouse, he had climbed from two-under par overnight to five-under – just two shots off surprise midway leader, Thorbjorn Olesen - the rising Danish star who, after finishing 48th in last year’s Order of Merit, is embarking on only his second full European Tour season.
“I thought I played well", said Woods, who will play in another glamour grouping with McIlroy and Robert Karlsson tomorrow. “I’m only two back and it’s a bunched leaderboard. So many guys have a chance to win. I just have to keep plugging along and keep doing what I’m doing. I’m swinging well and starting to feel very comfortable."
Among the field’s other ‘giant’ contenders, McIlroy, the first round leader, shrugged off a two-shot penalty incurred at the ninth hole to shoot even par and remain at five-under par, while Donald and world number two, Lee Westwood, both shot even par rounds of 72 to stay at one-under and level par, respectively.
“I felt like I played great golf coming in and made a few birdies to finish at even par, which is a decent score considering everything that went on out there", said McIlroy.
Elsewhere, a host of stars, including US Masters champion, Charl Schwartzel, Spanish sensation, Sergio Garcia, and triple Major winning Irishman, Padraig Harrington, are three shots adrift of Olesen at four-under.
The day’s best round came courtesy of Italian prodigy, Matteo Manssero - a global golf ambassador for ADTA - who propelled himself into contention with a majestic, bogey-free round of 65. Having started the day at one-over par, Manassero, 18, elegantly dismantled the National Course to finish the day at six-under.
“It was a very, very good round,"said Manassero, who carded only 21 putts. “I’m very excited to be back in contention again and it’s great to play well in Abu Dhabi. I like the course; this is my third time here so I know it a little bit. It’s particularly good and nice to play well in front of my sponsors."
Come Sunday, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship will also have a new champion, as defending champion, Martin Kaymer, dramatically missed the cut. Starting the day on five-over par, the German fired a round of 73 to end his chances of a fourth Abu Dhabi title. The tournament’s only other winners, England’s Paul Casey and America’s Chris DiMarco, are not in the field this year.
Meanwhile, local hope, Ahmed Al Musharrekh, also bowed out. The 21-year old Emirati carded a round of 80 to finish at 18-over par. “I still have a lot to learn, but it was a great experience for me," said Al Musharrekh. “I’m disappointed because I wanted to make the cut, but I got a lot of out of the tournament and I want to continue to improve in every way. My short game was good, but my swing was not as I hoped."