13-Year-Old Out Does DJ, Tommy Fleetwood, and Rory McIlroy

Ivan Schwartz
January 20, 2018

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded threesome that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

At nine under par McIlroy is just three from the halfway lead in the Middle East, with the rising standard of his play endorsing the theory of him being the man to beat.

Pieters combined his usual impressive length off the tee with an equally impressive performance on the greens to card seven birdies in a bogey-free 65.

Johnson played alongside Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68) in the European Tour event.

European number one Fleetwood was certainly impressed, adding: "He hit this little fade into that pin and I haven't got that shot!"

McIlroy has a remarkable record in Abu Dhabi, with four second-place finishes, two thirds and a fifth in his past eight starts, but missed last year's event with the rib injury which disrupted his entire season.

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"I felt like I gave myself tons of chances on the back nine and it was sort of hard to convert them", said McIlroy, who has finished second in the tournament four times.

Even though Murphy went out there and shocked some of the top players in the world, maybe it shouldn't have been so shocking that he hit a brilliant shot.

But the six-handicapper held his nerve superbly to find the green and finish closer to the pin than Johnson and Fleetwood, with only his idol McIlroy producing a better shot.

"You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important, " Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. His only dropped shot was a bogey on the par-4 11th hole.

"And that back nine today was just being patient to stay in it". "I was trying to do some stretches to try and get it off".

McIlroy, too, was pleased with his first competitive round in 102 days though hinted he wasn't surprised by his good display. "It's starting to pay off and I feel like I'm in a good position". I'm not a morning person, but the golf course was flawless this morning: just a little softer, greens less fierce.

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