Playing his first tournament since October 2019 due to injury, Brooks Koepka took the initiative on his first tournament hole with a birdie on the lengthy par five 10th before producing some thrilling golf to card five birdies in six holes between the 17th and 3rd to leave him two shots back from the clubhouse leaders.
The rounds of the day came from the joint leaders, Italian Renato Paratore and South African Shaun Norris, who both shot eight-under par. Paratore, who in 2015 became the first player in European Tour history to score a four on every hole at the Open de France, is looking for his second European Tour victory having won the Nordea Masters in 2017. Shaun Norris, who carded an impressive nine birdies on day one, is seeking his first European Tour win after an impressive season on the Japan Tour, where he won and had four runner up finishes.
Following the round, Koepka said: “It’s good to be back. I’ve really missed the competition and I’m pleased to have put a solid round together. I missed a few putts early if I really want to pick it apart but I’m happy with how I drove the ball. I controlled the ball flight and my distances really well and that’s what you have to do out here.”
On his brilliant start to the tournament, Paratore commented: “I started really well, holed some putts early which gave me great confidence and finished strongly down the stretch. My short game and iron play was also really strong so I’m pleased.”
Amongst the other strong performers from day one of the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA was European Tour veteran Sergio Garcia who navigated his way to first round 67 with typical panache. Defending champion, Shane Lowry, put together a steady round of two-under and will be looking to kick-forward on day two to close the gap on his playing partner, Brooks Koepka. Josh Hill, the 15-year old English sensation, lived up to his burgeoning reputation and recorded a respectable two-over par on debut in desert.
With six birdies to his name, Garcia stated: “I’m very pleased with my round, especially with my putting. I felt like I hit the ball quite well and drove the ball nicely for the most part. I’ve always enjoyed the desert where it feels like you can hit different kinds of shots. I’m happy to get my year off to a nice start.”