Thursday, 21 January 2010

Poulter and Bland - not two words you hear together very often - top the strong field at Abu Dhabi


Ian subtly takes the opportunity to sniff his pits - they were as fresh as any in Abu Dhabi but that wasn't saying much...
An awful lot has been made of the fact that an awful lot of the top golfers in the world have decided to rock up at this weeks Abu Dhabi Golf Tournament. 8 of the top 14 have elected to tee up there this week, making it one of the strongest fields you're likely to find on the European tour outside of the Majors and World Golf Championships. An indication of a shift in the pulling power of the PGA tour? An indication of the impact of Tigers absence? Not really, more of a display of just how many of the top Golfers in the world now hail from outside the US, with the top Europeans turning out in force for this event, as well as top Aussie Geoff Ogilvy. The comparison with the PGA Tours Bob Hope Classic is what makes for the headlines - topping the ranks there is Mike Weir at a lowly 39. Ouch. But considering Tiger and Phil are on hiatus for differing reasons it's not quite the horror story that some might be painting it - the European Tour will not be holding on to the big boys throughout the season, not when the pickings across the pond become so much richer.


Then it'll become all the more stark the difference in the respective fields once Rory Mc makes his planned shift to the US tour comes into play. The roles will be very much reversed...


But hey, there's a first round to be talked about and it's been a PGA Tour regular who's made the early running. Ian Poulter and his funky trousers got off to a flier as he got around in an unblemished 65 blows - the final one being a monstrous 70 foot putt for birdie on the last. Richard Horne picked up where he left off in last weeks Joburg Open, an eagle on the second helping him to a share of the lead along with Poulter and the unfortunately named Richard Bland...


One behind and lurking ominously is the illustrious duo Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard hasn't hit a ball in competition since November so he has hit the ground running with his 66.


Not a bad start but not a fantastic one either for Chubby Chandlers chubbier charges - Lee Westwood is on 3 under and Darren Clarke is 2 under after a pretty up and down first trip round the Abu Dhabi Golf club.


Rather more off the pace are two of the higher ranked players, Ogilvy and Casey. Geoff never got started as he plodded his way to an even par 72. Casey did at least pick things up after a 7 on the par five 8th hole to get back to level par.


One of my favourite pieces of commentary from the recent tournament for all last years winners on the PGA Tour came when looking at a list of the recent US Open winners and remarking how well the course was suiting the likes of Cabrera and Glover - they got to Michael Campbell before exclaiming "Where the hell is he now?" - the answer? 459 in the world and rock bottom of the leader board in Abu Dhabi on 83 for the day...

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