Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 February 2020

Plenty of positives for teenager Josh Hill despite early Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship exit

Despite falling well short of halfway cut, the Dubai-based amateur enjoys five days in the capital he will never forget

Even in missing the cut at his first European Tour event, for Josh Hill there were still a plethora of positives to take.

The 15-year-old, Dubai-based amateur created tournament history this week, becoming the youngest player to compete at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

Struggling off the tee, he opened on Thursday with a 2-over-par 74, and followed with a 76 on Friday to finish 6-over in total, some way short of the cut line.

However, what a five days in the capital to remember.

It began on Monday, when Hill defeated world No 1 Brooks Koepka in an eight-hole match in practice. It concluded with Charl Schwartzel, Hill’s playing partner through Rounds 1 and 2 and the 2011 Masters champion, giving him some pretty serious praise.

“Josh is one hell of a player,” the South African said. “To be 15-years-old and to have the temperament and the game for that matter … he has an unbelievable game.

“If he goes through the steps properly, if he doesn’t complicate things too much and makes the right decisions, he’s going to be a world-class player.”

That should help fortify Hill's vow to spend the next few days working on his driving and putting, two facets off enough this week to lead to his early exit.

On Friday, those troubles contributed to six bogeys in all, and when allied with only two birdies, it wasn’t enough to make the weekend.

And, with a debut at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic to come next week, the hope is that some time on the range will correct whatever needs fixing.

“You can’t really miss fairways around here,” Hill said. “As soon as you miss a fairway you’re out of position and you’re struggling to make pars. And that’s what happened today and yesterday."

Although he didn't quite have the game in Abu Dhabi, the maturity seems to be coming along great.

“I feel I handled the pressure or the expectation quite well, the feeling nervous on the first tee, and just getting out there and having fun,” Hill said. “So I’m pretty happy in some places, but overall I’m a bit disappointed. But I’ve learnt a lot from it and hopefully I can take that into next week.”

To reinforce that point, one aspect Hill really enjoyed this week was the backing he received around the National Course.

“Everyone was rooting me on while walking to the next tee, saying ‘Come on, keep going’, which is quite nice,” he said. “I think I’ll have a bit more support in Dubai, which will be nice. Yeah, I can’t wait to get started next week.

“I’m really looking forward to it because I feel like I can compete with these guys when I hit fairways. I keep saying it: hit fairways and hole putts. I know the course a bit better; I feel like there’s a few more birdies chances there."

Reflecting on his time in Abu Dhabi, Hill’s highlight was pretty obvious. “Playing with Koepka, learning a lot from him,” he said. “You can beat him in a practice round, but look what he’s doing today [close to the lead]. I hope he goes on to win this.”

Updated: January 17, 2020 03:21 PM

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