Date: January 16, 2009
Author: Sportal and PA Sport

Green starts well

Australian Richard Green has made a good start to the Abu Dhabi Championship after he fired off a four-under-par 68. The effort, which included six birdies and two bogeys, sees him tied for eighth position with six other competitors and two shots adrift of leaders Johan Edfors and Mikael Lundberg (six under) after the first round. Green, who started on the 10th tee, made a shaky start to the tournament with a score of one over after his first nine holes. But he stormed home to reel off five birdies in the next seven holes to put himself within striking distance of the lead. Green is a stroke ahead of compatriot Brett Rumford (three under), who could only fit 15 holes in before a freak hailstorm brought a premature end to play, and two strokes ahead of Kiwi pair Michael Campbell (two under after 12 holes)and Danny Lee (two under after 10). Robert Allenby, Rod Pampling (12 holes) and New Zealander Mark Brown (11) are all a further stroke behind on one under. However it was a case of &aposnew year, same old problem&apos for Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard may be on his way to taking over from Tiger Woods as world No.1 – but he is still having putting nightmares. Garcia began his 2009 campaign in brilliant fashion at the Middle Eastern event, grabbing three birdies and then a sparkling eagle in the first 10 holes. That left the 29-year-old &aposRace To Dubai&apos leader five under par and only one behind Swedes Edfors and Lundberg – but on the next two greens he missed par putts of under three feet. Because of the two-hour hailstorm delay, there was time for Garcia to play only two more holes – and he will resume in the morning three under and joint 15th. That still made it a better day for him than for great rival Padraig Harrington, Masters champion Trevor Immelman and Ryder Cup team-mate Henrik Stenson. Harrington, back to third in the world this week and building towards his attempt at a third successive major victory at Augusta in April, had to be content with a one-under 71; Immelman shot 72, and Stenson 76 after a bizarre mishap on the 475-yard 16th. After hitting into the dense rough, Stenson – twice a winner late last year – found a ball of the same type and number, but only after hitting it did the Swede discover it did not have his personal mark on it. That meant a two-stroke penalty and a triple-bogey seven went on his card – all on the course where Stenson shot a record 62 two years ago. Harrington, who had warned he would be somewhat rusty after going on holiday to South Africa for 18 days over Christmas, said: “I felt reasonably good.” “I was disappointed to make the bogey on six (his 15th) and had reasonable chances on the last two greens, so maybe a shot or two better would have been certainly what it felt like.” Immelman said: “I actually felt like I hit some nice shots but couldn&apost get the putter to co-operate, so I need to work on that.” Edfors missed a golden opportunity to lead on his own when he three-putted the long 18th for par, but seven earlier birdies meant that was of no great concern to the 2006 Scottish Open champion. Lundberg, whose two European Tour victories have both come at the Russian Open, kept a bogey off his card – and there could easily have been three Swedes at the top. Former Ryder Cup player Jarmo Sandelin&aposs 67 included a double-bogey six on the 16th, where he almost chipped in but then three-putted. Sandelin shared third place overnight with 20-year-old rising English star Oliver Fisher, Italian Francesco Molinari, Spaniard Ignacio Garrido and South African Louis Oosthuizen. Garrido has three holes to complete – and Oosthuizen, with six birdies in his last seven holes, has two left. Northern Ireland teenager Rory McIlroy, eagerly awaiting his Masters debut after charging into the world&aposs top 40 little more than a year into his professional career, stood four under after 12 when the light went. On the hailstorm, Molinari stated: “It was a bit of a surprise – you don&apost expect that to come down in the desert.” “It was a funny, new thing. I hope we won&apost get any of that in the next few days.”