Pieters leads, McIlroy and Johnson in contention in Abu Dhabi

Jan 21, 2018, 00:29
Pieters leads, McIlroy and Johnson in contention in Abu Dhabi

On Thursday during the opening round of $3million tournament, the Tyrone-born native joined the star-studded group of world No1 Dustin Johnson, Race to Dubai victor and reigning Abu Dhabi HSBC Champion Tommy Fleetwood and McIlroy.

Campillo was one of three players - along with 11th-placed duo Branden Grace and Dustin Johnson - to sign for eight under on their second round, placing him one stroke ahead of Ross Fisher, Alexander Levy and overnight leader Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy opened with a flawless 3-under 69 in his first tournament in three months, while Johnson posted a disappointing level-par 72.

McIlroy is joint sixth at the mid-way point thanks to a four under par back nine on day two, climaxing with that cool eagle on the 514 yard par five 18th.

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Pieters, ranked 40th in the world, finished second here in 2016 but missed the cut previous year. With the way he's been playing this week, though, it would take a courageous man to bet against him going one better and starting his 2018 season with a bang.

McIlroy is a shot back after matching Fisher's seven-under score on the third day, despite finally recording his first bogey of the tournament at the 15th.

Dougherty: You said there that the weather is meant to change a bit tomorrow, we've had flawless weather up until this point, the wind is going to blow, is that something you would relish? But if Murphy continues to hit shots like that, he may end up creating a lot more memories as a professional himself.

"I'm just really getting my golf head back on", McIlroy said. "It wasn't really that fancy today but a very good round".

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McIlroy joined in, his back-to-back birdies on the 11 and 12 carried him to four-under for the day.

"It was a nice way to finish".

"When I was standing next to the tee box my legs were a big shaky", Murphy said. "I feel like I played similar again".

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is one of three top-ten players in the field. "It was pretty easy for a 64".

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He later added: "I felt that eagle was something I deserved for staying patient". I drove it well. "I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well".