Hovland shoots 64, one off lead at Abu Dhabi Championship

Viktor Hovland of Norway watches his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (Matt York/AP)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Seeking a third win in his last four events, Viktor Hovland started the Abu Dhabi Championship by shooting 8-under 64 and was one stroke off the first-round lead held by Scott Jamieson on Thursday.

Hovland was in the marquee group with Collin Morikawa, and outplayed his playing partner by rolling in nine birdies on the undulating greens at Yas Links, a first-time host of the Rolex Series event on the European tour.

The Norwegian might be the world’s form player, having won back-to-back tournaments in Mexico and the Bahamas at the end of last year to climb to No.7.

Jamieson, a Scot ranked No. 336, hadn’t played competitively in eight weeks but quickly settled into the 2022 season with a bogey-free 63. He also had nine birdies — four of them coming in a five-hole span at the start of his back nine and the final one coming from 12 feet at the par-5 18th.

Thomas Pieters was alone in third place after a 65, while defending champion Tyrrell Hatton was in a tie for fourth place after 66. The English player won the prestigious event last year when it was held at nearby Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Morikawa, the British Open champion who won the Race to Dubai title last year, almost holed an approach from the fairway at his first hole before making birdie but that was one of the few highlights in his round of 1-over 73.

Rory McIlroy also got off to a poor start to his first event of 2022, bogeying his final two holes for a 72.

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