Rolex Series

Hansen hits the heights again in Dubai

Joachim B. Hansen continued his remarkable run of form in Dubai as he fired an opening 65 to lead by one shot after day one of the 2022 Dubai Desert Classic.

Joachim B. Hansen

The Dane won the AVIV Dubai Championship in November and the following week achieved his second top ten in a Rolex Series event at the DP World Tour Championship.

Now back in Dubai at Emirates Golf Club for a third consecutive Rolex Series start, the two-time DP World Tour winner was blemish-free in getting to seven under to lead by one from South Africa's Justin Harding, who was on the 18th when play was ended for the day due to darkness.

Former champion Sergio Garcia and countryman Pablo Larrazábal were then at five under alongside 2017 European Number One Tommy Fleetwood, veteran Thai Thongchai Jaidee and Italy's Andrea Pavan.

Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti was stood on the 18th tee at five under when the hooter sounded, and his group along with Harding's make up the six players who will have to complete their rounds on day two.

Reigning European Number One Collin Morikawa was at four under alongside World Number Five Viktor Hovland, Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Spaniard Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez, Finn Kalle Samooja and South African Brandon Stone but the day belonged to Hansen, who holed out in the twilight on the last.

Already a two-time European Challenge Tour graduate as he tried to establish himself on the European Tour, Hansen topped those Rankings in 2018 and has not looked back, finishing in the top 50 on the DP World Tour Rankings every season since and claiming those first two victories.

"A bit of a shame there wasn't any more tournaments at the end of last year I but try to keep it going," he said.

"I'm a bit more relaxed, have a bit more belief in myself. But I still have to play pretty good golf to play here in 2023. So I'm just trying to do my best.

"I kept the ball in play. I didn't drive it that well but putted fantastic."

Hansen got up and down at the driveable par-four second and did the same from the sand at the par-five next before putting a tee-shot to three feet at the third and holing a 23-footer at the fourth for four birdies in a row.

A beautiful pitch on the tenth had him in a share of the lead and he followed it with a long right-to-lefter, with another excellent up-and-down on the par-five 13th handing him a two-shot lead.

I kept the ball in play. I didn't drive it that well but putted fantastic

Harding's iron play on the front nine was exceptional and he made the most of chances from inside 15 feet on the first, second, fourth and seventh before holing a 50-footer on the eighth to share the lead.

A bogey on the next helped Hansen pull away but Harding got up and down from the sand on the tenth before another excellent iron shot to two feet on the 17th got him within one.

Garcia had set the target in the morning, holing from 16 feet on the 12th, making a birdie from the sand on the next and putting an approach to five feet on the 17th.

An exquisite second at the second set up another gain before a towering iron to five feet at the fifth put him at five under, where he was joined by his fast-finishing countryman.

Larrazábal made three birdies and two bogeys to turn in 34 but added two-putt gains on the tenth and 13th before putting a beautiful approach to four feet at the 17th and getting up and down at the last.

Pavan did not make a weekend for 12 months between August 2020 and 2021, finishing the 2021 season with a further five missed cuts.

But a tie for 25th last week was his best finish since the 2019 Italian Open and he made six birdies and a single bogey as his 2022 resurgence continued.

Fleetwood sandwiched smart approaches into the fourth and fifth with long putts at the second and eighth but dropped a shot on the 13th before hitting back with another nice approach to the 14th and a two-putt birdie on the last.

At the age of 52, Jaidee has made the move into seniors golf but he showed he can still mix it with the young guns, staying blemish free, while Zanotti had one bogey and six birdies in his 17 holes.

Morikawa had led by three at seven under but dropped three shots in his last four holes to sit a shot ahead of a group including former World Number Ones Adam Scott and Lee Westwood.

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