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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Forget McIlroy, Johnson and Fleetwood, the one name on everybody's lips at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is BSAK schoolboy Oscar Murphy

Oscar, 13, rewarded for winning a skills challenge by hitting a tee shot on the 15th tee, sticking his shot 10 feet from the hole, closer than both Fleetwood and Johnson

Oscar Murphy, the winner of a skills challenge from the HSBC Future Falcons golf programme, got to play a shot on the 15th hole against his hero Rory McIlroy on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Oscar Murphy, the winner of a skills challenge from the HSBC Future Falcons golf programme, got to play a shot on the 15th hole against his hero Rory McIlroy on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Forget joint leader Tommy Fleetwood, world No 1 Dustin Johnson or four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, the golfer everyone was talking about at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, presented by EGA, on Thursday was Abu Dhabi schoolboy Oscar Murphy.

A pupil at British School Al Khubairat, Oscar, 13, was the winner of a skills challenge from the HSBC Future Falcons golf programme, and his reward was to hit a tee shot on the 15th tee. Mid-tournament. Alongside his hero. With thousands watching live, millions on TV, and following tee shots from McIlroy, Fleetwood and Johnson.

If he was nervous he certainly fooled us, sticking his shot 10 feet from the hole, closer than both Fleetwood and Johnson, leading to raucous cheers from the surrounding spectators.

“I was standing by the side of the tee box waiting to hit my shot and my legs were going off on me,” Oscar said. “It was unreal.”

A huge fan of McIlroy, Oscar has been following his fellow Northern Irishman since he was five years old. So intently, in fact, that McIlroy recognised him as he climbed through the ropes and even refers to him as his “little mascot”.

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“He's been following me, because he's from Northern Ireland, since the 2011 PGA Championship in Atlanta and he's like every round I play here. I feel like he's my little mascot,” McIlroy said after his round.

“He's waiting at the back of every green and every tee box. Was a little surprised to see him on the tee there. I didn't expect him to be inside the ropes today but he hit a really great shot, a really good little swing, one for the future.”

Oscar was only told on Wednesday that he would be playing alongside McIlroy. So did the former world No 1 have any words of encouragement?

“He was in tournament mode but after he came up to me and said ‘good shot’ and was talking to me all the way down the hole,” said Oscar, who is a regular at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. “It was unbelievable.”

After going toe-to-toe with the best players in the world over one shot, Oscar’s big aim is to be one day compete against his hero professionally.

He already has a couple of new high-profile fans. Former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff and former British No 1 tennis player Tim Henman - at the tournament as HSBC ambassadors - posed for photos with Oscar, both clearly keen to be seen with the man of the hour.