Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 11 December 2019

‘Lack of practice’ works wonders for Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship leader Henrik Stenson

Henrik Stenson picked up where he left off last season by racing straight to the top of the leaderboard in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Henrik Stenson shot a bogey-free eight-under par 64 to lead after the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Nezar Balout / AFP
Henrik Stenson shot a bogey-free eight-under par 64 to lead after the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Nezar Balout / AFP

ABU DHABI // Henrik Stenson picked up where he left off last season by racing straight to the top of the leaderboard in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The world No 4, who collected the Race to Dubai title the last time he was in the UAE, said he had barely spent any time playing golf since ending last season at the start of December and starting this one in Abu Dhabi.

He landed in the capital on Tuesday, having stopped off in Stockholm en route to the UAE to claim an award for Swedish male athlete of the year ahead of footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Despite spending “two out of three nights on an airplane,” and barely any time practicing, he shot a bogey-free 64, to lead the field at eight-under par.

It was the second lowest score he has managed around the National Course, having played in all 11 previous editions of the event.

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“It must be the lack of practice that does it — a lack of sleep and a lack of practice,” Stenson said.

“I’m delighted with that score. I think I scored better than what I played, but I kept it under control somewhat, hit a couple of close iron shots and made the putts. There wasn’t much stress out there.”

The Swede has only finished outside the top 10 once in his past seven European Tour events, and that was tied-13th in the Scottish Open. He has also won twice in that time, including the British Open.

He also ended 2016 by finishing as runner up at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December.

Stenson was immediately back in the old routine in Abu Dhabi. Teeing up alongside Danny Willett and Dustin Johnson, Stenson carded six birdies in the first nine holes.

“[It is] a continuation, because I didn’t practice much before,” he said. “It seems like whatever I did at the back end of last year seemed to be working still.”

Martin Kaymer, the three-time winner of the tournament, remained within touch of Stenson, after registering a six-under 66 in his first round.

The German, who was playing alongside defending champion Rickie Fowler and world No 10 Alex Noren, once monopolised the Falcon Trophy, but has not won it since 2011.

“The golf course for me doesn’t feel like I need to do a lot of special things in order to play well, because I usually putt well on those greens,” Kaymer said.

pradley@thenational.ae

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Updated: January 19, 2017 04:00 AM

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