Dubai World Championship: Peter Hanson leads after first round
Swede Peter Hanson takes a one-shot lead into the second round of the Dubai World Championship, one clear of Paul Lawrie
Peter Hanson will take a one-shot lead into the second round of the Dubai World Championship after opening up with a serene, bogey-free eight under par round of 64.
The Swede made two birdies on the front nine to go out in 34, before three straight birdies from the 10th set him up to complete the back nine in only 30 shots, narrowly missing a putt at the last to shoot 63 and set a new course record.
He sits one clear of Scotsman and former Open Champion Paul Lawrie, who shot an early seven under 65 and led by a three shots for quite some time.
Thrillingly for everyone involved, with the exception of Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, who has to win to have any chance of claiming the race to Dubai crown, is just two back on six under par. The Northern Irishman had nine birdies in his round, and like Hanson, came home in 30, after playing his last six holes in five under par.
Sergio Garcia is a further shot back on five under par, another who had a fantastic back nine. He had six birdies, but an untidy double at the short 17th left him pondering what might have been. Donald, the man who McIlroy is chasing, returned an uncharacteristically scrappy level par 72; some wayward tee shots on the back nine undoing some of the good work he had done in reaching the turn in just 33 strokes.
Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood were other high-profile golfers unable to keep double bogeys off their card. Schwartzel battled to a three under par 69, but it was a case of the all too familiar for Westwood. He gave himself chances, but was let down again and again by the putter, something he must rectify if he harbours any hope of winning his first major championship next season.
There was no such issue with the flat-stick for Hanson, who confessed to having “one of those days where everything is perfect”. After a blemish-free front nine of 34, he changed up a gear on the back side. He had six birdies in eight holes from the turn, and could easily have made it seven in nine; his 12 footer for birdie on the last green narrowly missed right. Something so insignificant will not stop Hanson from enjoying “the best round of my life”.
Veteran Paul Lawrie was by far and away the best of the early starters. He plotted his way around the lengthy Earth Course to shoot a bogey-free seven under par, good enough to give him the clubhouse lead until the late barage from Hanson and McIlory.
The Northern Irishman’s duel with Donald had rightly dominated the pre-tournament coverage, and the pair were finally underway at 0830 UK time. Both combined brilliance with poor play over the first three holes, a period in which neither recorded a par.
Donald hit a wayward tee shot at the first, leading to a bogey five, but followed with two birdies at the seond and third. McIlroy blasted a gargantuan 350-yard drive down the first fairway to set up an easy birdie. He would also birdie three, but took a double-bogey seven at the par-5 second after hitting a three wood from thick rough instead of chosing the simplest of lay-ups.
Donald had two more birdies to turn in 33, but McIlroy reached the halfway point in level par 36. It was a tale of differing fortunes and uncharacteristic play on the back nine.
Donald failed to make a single birdie, and wayward tee shots at 13, 14 and 15 ultimately led to a back nine of 39. His playing partner, on the other hand, had already picked up three shots standing on the 16th tee, and proceeded to birdie the last three holes for a back nine of 30 and a six under 66 to end the day.
A considered and cautious McIlroy spoke afterwards of “staying patient” before adding: “I’ve given myself a really good start to build on”; the caveat being “there is still a lot of golf left to play”.
Donald spoke of his differing fortunes on the front and back nine, saying “this course can do that to you”. When asked about McIlroy’s round, Donald professed his intention to “concentrate on myself, and do what I can do to try and win this tournament”. Crucially – although Donald is eight off the lead – he is only three strokes behind eighth place, which would guarantee him glory in Dubai.
Day two is set up very nicely indeed. Donald and Westwood must rally, and the former will be hoping the likes of Hanson and Garcia can go low and put some added pressure on the highly talented Ulsterman.