Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Three Tied at the Top.

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Rafael Cabrera-Bello is sharing the lead at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship with Romain Wattel and Matthew Baldwin.


Rafa Cabrera-Bello  (Getty Images)

Rafael Cabrera-Bello  / Getty Images.

The three first round leaders carded -5 under par 67, to top the leaderboard at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Rafa said he was pleased with his effort, especially as it is his first round of the year;

“It’s the first round of the year for most of us. I have not competed for the last five weeks, so even though I have been practising and trying to recreate competition, it’s not quite the same, so I’m pretty pleased. I started good and I held my nerve and more than that, I played the game I know I can play.” 

“It is tough out there. You need to drive it good, otherwise the rough, it’s very, very thick, and it’s not easy to play out of. You need to be playing very good off the tee and the greens are rolling really good, so I think that you can make the putts.”

Matthew wants to win and is full of confidence about his good form of late;

“I played nice in the Nelson Mandela and hopefully continue to do so. It’s been a nice preparation, and five days in the sun last week helped. It’s given me confidence to go on and hopefully keep challenging and maybe a win is around the corner, you never know.” 

“I want to win. There are plenty of guys that obviously they want to win, as well, but I think looking at the year ahead, top 60 is a target but definitely to get a win under the belt would be superb.”

Romain was the only one of the three who went round bogey free;

“That’s a good test all the time, Abu Dhabi, so really pleased with the five under par and it’s obviously really nice to start the tournament. I tried to save all the bad holes I had and that’s what I tried and that’s what I did, so I’m really pleased with that and I’m going to try to do the same for the next few days.”

Rory McIlroy opened his account with a bogey free round of -2 under par 70, while Open Champion Phil Mickelson shot an uncharacteristic +1 over par 73 which included 17 straight pars and one bogey. I guess his heralded new driver is not working as he expected.

This is what Phil had to say about his new driver, before play started;

“It’s a whole different weapon in my arsenal now. If I drive the ball well, like I have been in practice and I have been this off-season, heading into this 2014 season, this could be the best year of my career for that simple reason. I spin the ball more than anybody, and so what happens is, they end up giving me a driver with seven degrees of loft to knock that spin-off. Now what we did instead is I’ve got a driver with ten degrees of loft, that they have this gravity core that lowers the centre of gravity and knocks off the spin.”

Lets hope this new Callaway driver starts to work for Phil, or he will be back to using his three wood.

Nelson Mandela Championship, A 59 before the Rain halted Play Again.

Jorge Campillo and Colin Nel both recorded second rounds of 59 in the rain-washed Nelson Mandela Championship, before play was halted once again at the Mount Edgecombe Country Club in South Africa.

Jorge Campillo  (Getty Images)

Jorge Campillo / Getty Images

Despite their heroic efforts Jorge and Colin are still behind the tournament leader Daniel Brooks, and he has yet to complete his second round, and has added another four birdies to his total in this 54 hole event.

Daniel still occupies the top spot at -12 under par, and will have the chance to extend his lead over the last seven holes when play resumes at 06:00 on Saturday morning.

Jorge, who is tied in second place at -11 under par, and is bidding for his first European Tour title was happy with his play, especially the way he finished the round;

 “We play other par 70s on Tour, but you still have to shoot 59 and I’m pretty happy with the way I finished. I was ten under after 14 holes and had two tough par fours and a tough par three coming in. I was never close to 59 before, but in the KLM Open I was eight under with three holes to go on a par 70. Finishing with three birdies would have put me on 59, but I finished par-par-bogey. That helped me a lot today, because finishing well was important and I did it.”

Mathew Baldwin is one of the three players tied at -11 under par, after his second round -8 under par 62, and hopes tiredness will not come into the reckoning;

“I don’t think tiredness comes into it , what does come into it is the fact that you’re playing a lot of holes close together. For example, I played 21 holes in a short space of time today and by the time I finished I was quiet tired, so getting some rest in will be important for tomorrow.”

Dowie Van Der Walt is the third player on -11 under par, with World number 49 Brandon Grace just two shots off the lead at the moment at – 10 under par.

Brandon spoke about his feelings for Nelson Mandela;

“I feel like this week shows what happens when you make those few extras putts. I’m right up there again and it’s all about the putting. If I can keep rolling the ball well then hopefully tomorrow will be one more memory of lifting a trophy. It would be great to finish the year off with a win. Mandela is one of the reasons I am here, a lot of people think I’m here for the top 50, but I think I’ve secured that for the year. Coming here you’re trying to get the win for Madiba, not that it will make everything better for the country, but hopefully it will put a little smile on some people’s faces. Maybe if you lift the trophy at the end you can say ‘this is for him’.”

Volvo China Open, first round

Matthew Baldwin of England  shot a 7-under par 65 Thursday to lead the China Open at Binhai Lake GC, by one stroke after the first round. Mathew said about his day;

“The conditions were a lot calmer when I played then when we played a practice round early in the week. Then, I thought shooting four 72s around this course would be very good. But they did move some of the tee’s forward and some of the pins were very generous, which helped the score.”

Joost Luiten, Gary Boyd, Scott Strange, Jean Baptiste Gonnet, Fredrik Andersson and Jbe Kruger were all to return scores of 66 for the first round to be just one shot behind the leader.

Colin Montgomerie shot a 68 for his best round this year, and it would have been lower had he not three-putted on his last hole of the day. Colin said;

“I have been working very hard on my game because you have to say that I had lost my game completely. It feels better and it seems to be coming back.”

Guan Tian-lang of China, who at 13 years, 173 days made history by becoming the youngest player at a European Tour event had a poor start to the tournament, he was +5 over Par after six holes,  but recovered sufficiently to finished the last 12 holes in level par to shoot a 77. Lets hope he can relax and shoot a good score tomorrow to make the cut.