In a field of some of the world’s best, a young American is leading the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship after the opening round … and his name is not Jordan Spieth.
Twenty-two-year old Bryson DeChambeau, an amateur in just his seventh professional event, fired an 8-under 64 to jump out to a 1-stroke lead in the UAE event on Thursday.
Ranked 644th in the world, DeChambeau overcame an early bogey to fire off seven birdies and an eagle on the final 14 holes. His 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5, 597-yard No. 8 set the crowd off.
His lead is one over Henrik Stenson, who has been playing at a very high level to start the season, having finished second at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in December. Stenson birdied four straight holes on the front nine, and suffered just one blemish, a bogey on No. 9.
This is the 10th installment of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, first held in 2006. Stenson was the runner-up that year, to America’s Chris DiMarco, and also finished second in 2008.
The tournament’s most famous runner-up is Rory McIlroy, who tied for second in 2014 and was alone there in 2015, both times by a single stroke.
McIlroy shot a 6-under 66 on Thursday to tie for third with South Africa’s Branden Grace.
Two more of the game’s youngest and best are tied for seventh at 4-under: the UK’s Matthew Fitzpatrick and world No. 1 Jordan Spieth, both playing the event for the first time in their young careers.
Spieth was up and down to start his round; two birdies and two bogeys in his first five holes; but was consistently strong the rest of the way, with four birdies and nine pars the rest of the round.
The tournament’s defending champion, Frenchman Gary Stal, got off a slow start, a 1-over 73.