(Reuters) – Denmark’s Joachim Hansen took a one-shot lead in the opening round of the Dubai Desert Classic after carding an error-free 65 to finish at seven under on Thursday.
The 110th-ranked Hansen hit four birdies in a row to edge ahead of South Africa’s Justin Harding in second, who was on the 18th when play was ended due to the fading light.
Dubai has been a happy hunting ground for Hansen in recent months, with the Dane claiming his second European Tour title at the AVIV Dubai Championship in November last year, before finishing tied ninth at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in the same city.
“A bit of a shame there weren’t any more tournaments at the end of last year but I try to keep it going,” he said. “I’m a bit more relaxed, have bit more belief in myself.
“But I still have to play pretty good golf to play here in 2023. So I’m just trying to do my best.
“I kept the ball in play. I didn’t drive it that well but putted fantastic.”
British Open champion Collin Morikawa finished with a 68, one stroke behind a group of five players on five-under 67 which included Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who won the tournament in 2017.
Morikawa took an early lead at seven under, but was undone by three bogeys on his last four holes.
“It was a disappointing finish,” Morikawa said. “I’m happy with the four under, but not thrilled.
“However, it was good to see some of the things I’ve been working on show up on the course.”
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy finished one under.
(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)