Donald rolls back years to lead in Abu Dhabi at 8 under | Golf

Donald rolls back years to lead in Abu Dhabi at 8 under | Golf

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Europe captain Luke Donald has eclipsed many players who will be on his Ryder Cup squad by shooting 8-under 64 to take the lead in the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship Thursday.

Donald rolled in a 4ft putt at No. 9 – his last hole – to close with four straight birdies and have nine in total on his card at the start of one of the best events on the European tour schedule, and the first of 2023.

The 45-year-old Englishman’s last title dates back to 2012, when he was the best golfer in the world – he spent a combined 56 weeks as a No.1 in 2011-12 – and a consistent winner on both sides of Atlantic.

Now ranked No. 541, Donald’s name rarely appears in the rankings, but his profile was raised by securing the Ryder Cup captaincy for the match against USA away to Rome in September.

Win at Yas Island Links this week and he might have a shot at captaincy.

“It was 1975, I think, the last time that happened,” Donald said, with a smile. “No, we are far from it.

Yet the likes of Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood – players who are expected to make Team Europe at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club – couldn’t live with Donald on a day when the score was lower among starters. in the morning before the wind picks up. .

Guido Migliozzi – an Italian with a chance to make the Ryder Cup squad – and Australian Jason Scrivener shot 65 and were one shot off the lead. Seamus Power, an Irishman also with Ryder Cup hopes, had a 66 and was alone in fourth place.

Lowry, the highest-ranked player on the pitch, and rejuvenated Italian Francesco Molinari, who had a strong week at the Hero Cup last week, were in a 5-under group after 67 seconds.

Fleetwood, who was playing on his 32nd birthday, shot 66, as did Henrik Stenson, playing his first event on the European tour since losing the Ryder Cup captaincy for joining LIV Golf there. at six months.

Lee Westwood had 69 while fellow LIV golfer Patrick Reed tied for 72 to find himself eight shots behind Donald, who said he was not surprised to go so low.

“That kinda suits me,” he said. “It’s not too tight off the tee. You have to pick good lines.”

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