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Thursday December 02, 2021

Koepka makes strong start to 2020 in Abu Dhabi

By AFP
January 17, 2020

ABU DHABI: World number one Brooks Koepka made a superb comeback from a 14-week injury layoff, shooting a bogey-free six-under par 66 on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi Championship on Thursday.

In the opening Rolex Series event of the European Tour season, that round left Koepka two shots behind leaders Renato Paratore and Shaun Norris, but it laid to rest all speculation about the fitness of the American four-time major champion.

The 29-year-old Koepka was tied for third alongside Jason Scrivener of Australia, with six players in joint fifth on five-under, including former Masters champion Sergio Garcia.

Shane Lowry of Ireland started his campaign with a two-under par 70. Paired in the same group as Koepka, the world number 19 paid for a double bogey on the par-three 12th hole.

Koepka was well in control of his game and rarely courted trouble. He also wielded a hot putter, making four of his six birdies from well outside 12 feet.

“It’s good to be back. I missed the competition, obviously,” he said. “Played really solid and if I really want to pick it apart, I missed a few putts early in the round.

“But I drove the ball well, controlled the ball flight and controlled the distances really well and that’s what you have to do out here.”

Italian Paratore and South Africa’s Norris had just one blemish each on their cards, both dropping shots on the difficult par-three seventh hole.

Norris, who finished second in the Japan Golf Tour Order of Merit for the past two years, was one-under through seven holes before making four birdies around the turn and then added three more in a row from the 14th onwards.

The 23-year-old Paratore, looking for his second European Tour win following his triumph in the 2017 Nordea Masters, closed with four straight birdies.

Two-time Abu Dhabi champion Tommy Fleetwood opened with a one-under par 71, while three-time champion Martin Kaymer of Germany shot a four-under 68.