Rolex Series

Luke Donald leads by one in Abu Dhabi after superb 64

Luke Donald leads the 2023 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship by a single shot after finishing his first round with four successive birdies to sign for a sensational 64.

The former World Number One rolled back the years on Thursday morning as he carded nine birdies and a solitary bogey to set the clubhouse target at eight under par.

And none of the afternoon starters were able to catch the European Ryder Cup Captain before play was suspended due to fading light at 17.57 local time.

But Englishman Donald has a high-quality chasing pack breathing down his neck after a day of low scoring at Yas Links Abu Dhabi, with Guido Migliozzi and Jason Scrivener on seven under par after their 65s.

Irishman Séamus Power is another shot further back after his bogey-free 66, one clear of the seven-strong group on five under which contains Major Champions Shane Lowry and Francesco Molinari.

Scott Jamieson was one of those with holes left to play and he birdied the last on Friday morning to join that group at five under.

Starting from the tenth tee, Donald opened his round with a birdie from 17 feet before taking advantage of the short 13th from ten feet.

Back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th saw Donald turn in 32 before he picked up another shot at the par-five second.

A three-putt bogey arrived at the third but he bounced back with birdies at the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth - holing a series of lengthy putts along the way.

The 45-year-old spent last week watching the action at Abu Dhabi Golf Club as players from across Europe battled it out at the Hero Cup.

And he was pleased with his performance on his return to the course, but joked that he is some way off making his way into his own team for the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club later this year.

He said: "1975 I think was the last time that happened. No, we are a long way from that!

"Just playing here the last couple of days, I felt like there were some low scores out here as long as the wind didn't blow too hard.

"Just kind of suits my eye. It's not too tight off the tee. I think you have to pick some good lines.

"I think you're going to hit a lot of greens out here because you're going to hit a lot of fairways, too.

"I putted very nicely today other than one three-putt on the third hole for my only bogey.

"I made a lot of good putts. I made a couple of long ones, but just was very tidy. I think maybe a little inspired by watching some good golf from last week."

Scrivener's 65 contained two eagles as well as five birdies and two bogeys.

He was pleased with his start to 2023, saying: "It was a really nice way to start the year. A little scrappy at the start, and then kind of fought my way through it and had a few good breaks.

"I played really nicely the second half of the round."

Migliozzi was thrilled with his tee-to-green performance as he shot a sparkling 65.

He said: "I played great. I'm happy that I'm playing solid from tee-to-green."

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