Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 February 2020

Abu Dhabi Golf Championship: Renato Paratore and Shaun Norris share day-one lead

World No 1 Brooks Koepka impresses on his return to action

Renato Paratore and Shaun Norris shared the lead at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with Day 1 almost completed.

Out early on Thursday, Paratore raced to the top of the leader board, carding an 8-under-par 64 to leave everyone else trailing in his wake. Norris then followed later in the afternoon, emulating Paratore's nine birdies and a dropped shot.

Brooks Koepka, the returning world No 1, and Jason Scrivener, the world No 148, were two shots back in third, while 2017 Masters champions Sergio Garcia headlined a group on 5-under.

It was Paratore who first burst out of the blocks, firing four birdies in his opening six holes. He finished pretty sprightly, too, picking up shots on each of the final four. In between, a not-too-disruptive bogey on the 7th, and another birdie to open his back nine. Aged 23, and with one European Tour victory on his CV to date, Paratore sits at 273 in the global rankings.

Obviously, then, he was pretty happy with the day’s work.

“Today the short game was really good, and also, the iron play,” Paratore said. “The last four holes, I holed some good putts to finish also on 18 and 17. So I'm pretty happy with the short game.

“I just started really well today, and really confident on the putting. Then I was just trying to keep on my mind, keep making birdie.”

Last year, Paratore started the season rather slowly. He finished tied-54th in Abu Dhabi, then missed the cut in seven of his next 11 events to fall outside the top 400.

However, a tied-28th at the Scottish Open prompted an upturn in form, with Paratore finishing joint runner-up last time out, in Mauritius early last month.

“Yeah, Mauritius I played really solid from tee-to-green,” he said. “It gave me some confidence, and then in the break, I worked on my short game and more on the body. This one helped me.”

Updated: January 16, 2020 06:15 PM

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