Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 February 2020

Abu Dhabi Golf Championship: World No 1 Brooks Koepka impresses on return to action

Four-time major winner cards a blemish-free round at the National course

World No 1 Brooks Koepka marked his return to competitive golf after a three-month hiatus by shooting 6-under-par 66 on Thursday to sit two shots off the early lead at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

The four-time major champion, who hadn’t competed since withdrawing from the CJ Cup in October with a knee injury, carded a blemish-free round around the National course. He reeled off four birdies on his front nine - Koepka began on the 10th - and added two more coming home.

The American trails early frontrunner Renato Paratore, the Italian who ranks some way behind at world No 243. Australia’s Zach Murray was second.

Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, is one further back on 5-under having dropped a shot on the 9th – his final hole – to fall into a tie for fourth.

Koepka, who finished tied-9th in Abu Dhabi last year, was among the first out on Thursday, playing alongside defending champion Shane Lowry and two-time winner Tommy Fleetwood, who shot 2-under and 1-under respectively.

Paratore is the early man to catch after birdieing four of the opening six holes and finishing with four straight birdies. His only blot was a bogey on the 7th.

Updated: January 16, 2020 12:53 PM

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