Thomas Pieters shoots superb 65 to lead HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi HSBC Power Rankings
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Power Rankings
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20 January, 2018

One of the most popular groupings of the day was the headline trio of World Number One Dustin Johnson, four-time Major victor Rory McIlroy and reigning champion Tommy Fleetwood.

Thirty-one-year-old Spaniard Jorge Campillo tied the low round of the day with an impressive 64, a shot behind Pieters, to take him into second place on 11-under.

Fisher and Casey have not won on the European Tour since 2014 but looked in fine touch, with Casey firing five birdies and an eagle for a seven-under-par 65.

Fleetwood, the reigning Race to Dubai champion on the European Tour, agreed.

Playing his first event since calling an early end to his injury-plagued and winless season in October a year ago McIlroy said: "I felt like I gave myself tons of chances on the back nine and it was sort of hard to convert them", McIlroy said.

"I had control of my ball really from the get-go". He's been following me since the 2011 US PGA in Atlanta and every round I play here I feel like he's my little mascot. "Today was an improvement on yesterday just in terms of scoring".

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Dustin Johnson, who ranked second only to Rory McIlroy in driving distance in 2017, doesn't see the need for a reduced-flight golf ball.

"Personally, I know this course well and I think that's the thing - I know how to get around it". And he showed no signs of cooling off with his round on Thursday, which featured hitting all 18 greens in regulation. I hit it really well, had a lot of great looks, but I didn't really hole any putts until I made two nice putts on 17 and 18.

He said: "Today was really good".

"He's the No. 1 player in the world and Tommy's playing so well", McIlroy said.

Brazel started fast with a birdie at the 10th hole, his first, but gave the shot back immediately. "It would have been nice to go bogey-free again, but it was kind of coming and I hit a bad tee shot. It's another season, a season that I feel like I'm as prepared for as any season I've started as a professional".

Belgian Thomas Pieters, who forged an excellent alliance with McIlroy at the last Ryder Cup, reminded onlookers that he wants to remain part of such a fold by charging to the top of the leaderboard.


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