Fleetwood Unfazed In Illustrious Company Muscling His Way To Share Of Abu Dhabi Lead.

European Tour No. 1 Tommy Fleetwood was clearly unfazed competiting alongside World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and four-time Major winning Rory McIlroy on day one of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Fleetwood, who was also undefeated in last week’s EurAsia Cup, did not miss a green in regulation in recording a bogey-free 66 to share the lead in the defeance of his title.

The also recently-married Englishman was tied at the top alongside Japan’s Hideto Tanihara.

“It’s a good golf course to hit 18 greens around,” Fleetwood said. “Just a good ball-striking round and nice to start the year off like that.

“Had control of my ball really from the get-go. Just sort of did what you need to do well around here to get a good score: I drove it well, got away with a couple of tee shots.

“Hitting 18 greens doesn’t happen very often so nice to do it around here. My pace putting was really good. I didn’t put myself under any stress at all. So all in all, very good morning.”

Having hit his third close at the par-five tenth, his first, Fleetwood carded further gains at the 13th after firing to tap-in range and the 18th, where he found the green in two but settled for birdie after missing a 20-foot eagle effort.

Playing alongside World Number One Dustin Johnson and four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, Fleetwood picked up another shot at the long second after chipping to three feet and converted from close range at the sixth and eighth to complete his scoring for the day.

“I think during my career, I think I’m going to struggle to find a better three ball, really,” Fleetwood added. “Doesn’t matter how long I play. That might be the best one I get.

“All you can do is concentrate on your own game and that’s what you always do, is you set out to play the best you can.

European No. 1 Tommy Fleetwood hits into the 18th green on day one of the defence of his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title. (Photo – European Tour/Gettys)

“These two, I don’t know what I’ll do in my career and nobody knows what the future holds, but I think these two might be going down in the history books, so it will be nice to tell them that I played these two in a three-ball.”

Tanihara finished an impressive 27th on the Race to Dubai during his maiden campaign last season and is now looking to follow Isao Aoki by becoming the second Japanese player to win a regular European Tour event.

“It’s a tough course here,” he said, after matching Fleetwood’s bogey-free effort. “I’m thinking more about playing smart golf and making good putts. Aoki, he won on the European Tour, and I’m just trying to focus on winning on the European Tour.”

Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti, who has missed the cut in three of his last four appearances at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, finished birdie-eagle to lie in a share of third on five under, alongside Australia’s Sam Brazel, England’s Ross Fisher, Belgian Thomas Pieters and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.

McIlroy waited 12 holes for his first birdie but a couple of late gains saw him finish on three under, while Johnson mixed four bogeys with four birdies in a level par 72.

  • Thank you to European Tour

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