ABU DHABI // Pressure, that most devilish of external forces, reared its dastardly head on Thursday precisely when Ahmed Al Musharrekh least wanted it to.
The Emirati amateur had enjoyed a practice round at the National Course earlier in the week. No problems. He had rubbed shoulders stress free with some of the world's finest golfers at the club's putting green. No issues.
Yet just as he was readying himself over the 10th tee preparing to start his opening round at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, there it was. Pressure.
"Everything leading up to the tournament, it all built up: my friends saying they wanted to come and watch, the media attention, everything," Al Musharrekh said. "I just didn't cope with it at the beginning.
"I seemed cool for the practice round and everything, then I just realised how much pressure I had when I got to the first tee. It just sneaked up on me. All of a sudden my muscles tensed up."
The UAE's top-ranked national shot a double-bogey on his opening hole and despite a remarkable display of mental strength to hit a birdie on his second – the par-4 11th – he carded a further four bogeys and a double-bogey to reach the turn at seven-over par 43.
"I only figured out my swing on the 13th or 14th hole," he said. "There were mixed emotions. I was down, then I thought I was back into it, then all of a sudden my swing changes. There was just so much going on that I wasn't used to."
Al Musharrekh eventually finished on 10-over, but was quick to look to the positives of what he called a "rough day".
"I'm not happy with the result, but there was a good lesson for the future," he said. "Hopefully I'll be able to get used to it and then when I come to the [Dubai Desert] Classic, which I'm playing, I'll just come to the tee and say 'There is no point feeling the pressure; just pretend it's a practice round'."
He added: "I need the pressure. It's healthy, because I will learn from the experience and hopefully it will make me better. It is great preparation for the Classic and is all progress for me. I'm still learning a lot."
The 21 year old was not the only player to struggle at the European Tour event though. Martin Kaymer, the three-time winner here, finished the day on five over while Henrik Stenson, the former Dubai resident, shot eight over.
"My caddie told me at one stage, 'Don't worry, you're not doing too bad: Kaymer is four-over.'," Al Musharrekh said. "When the defending champion is struggling, that shows it wasn't easy. It just makes me realise how much room for improvement there is. These guys play every weekend, so the more I play, the more I will improve."
"I could have done better, I know my game is good enough, but the pressure took over. That was my biggest mistake; letting the pressure take control."
The UAE's other representative, the Englishman Stuart Fee, had a round to forget, shooting 15 over.