Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship: Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald grabs lead in Rolex Series opener
Luke Donald posted an eight-under 64 to hold a one-shot lead over Guido Migliozzi and Jason Scrivener, with Ireland's Seamus Power two off the pace; watch the second round of the Abu Dhabi Championship live on Friday from 3.30am on Sky Sports Golf
Last Updated: 19/01/23 2:23pm
Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald rolled back the years to set the pace after the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where several of his Team Europe hopefuls also impressed.
The 45-year-old mixed nine birdies with a lone bogey on his way to an eight-under 64 at Yas Links Abu Dhabi, giving the Englishman a one-shot lead over Guido Migliozzi of Italy and Australia's Jason Scrivener in the opening Rolex Series event of the year.
Donald, who will be hoping to regain the Ryder Cup for Team Europe at Marco Simone GC in Rome, started on the back nine and followed birdies at the 10th and 13th by producing back-to-back gains from the 16th to reach the turn in 32.
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The former world No 1 took advantage of the par-five second but three-putted from long range at the par-four next, before holing from 35 feet at the sixth to start a four-birdie finish and jump to the top of the leaderboard.
"I actually came into this year with higher expectations than I had in a while just for my own game," Donald said after his round. "I feel like my game is in a pretty good spot, so it's not totally surprising that I shot 64 today."
Migliozzi - targeting a Ryder Cup debut on home soil this September - is in tied-second after making a bogey-free 65, which included a hole-out eagle from 90 yards at the par-four first, with Scrivener holing out from 105 yards at the 10th on his way to also getting to seven under.
"I played great," Migliozzi said. "I'm happy that I'm playing solid from tee-to-green as well. I was looking for this last week for me as well. It's been very important to test new equipment and new feelings on the course, and the work that I am doing and I did in the winter is working great."
Ireland's Seamus Power followed his appearance in the Hero Cup last week by registering five birdies in a six-hole stretch around the turn on his way to a bogey-free 66, with compatriot Shane Lowry within three of the lead after two birdies in his last three holes.
Ryder Cup vice-captain Edoardo Molinari and brother Francesco - who won all five of his matches in Europe's 2018 victory - are also in the group on five under, while Tommy Fleetwood marked his 32nd birthday by posting a bogey-free 68 to get within four of the lead alongside 2021 Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington.
"I felt like I rolled the ball well on the greens," Fleetwood said. "Didn't make the most of my chances, but overall can't complain at all about getting to four under. I think the most encouraging thing was how I played and the fact that I gave myself the opportunity to have a really good score today. Can't win it the first round, but played well."
Henrik Stenson marked his first DP World Tour appearance since joining LIV Golf by carding a four-under 68 and Lee Westwood, a former winner in Abu Dhabi, registered seven birdies and four bogeys in an eventful opening-round 69.
Play was suspended due to fading light at 5.57pm local time (1.57pm GMT), with 21 players unable to complete their opening rounds and having to return on Friday morning to finish. The second round will begin as scheduled.
Watch the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage continues Friday with Featured Groups from 3.30am on Sky Sports Golf, ahead of full coverage from 7.30am.