Flawless Stenson takes early lead in Abu Dhabi


After a banner 2016 season, Henrik Stenson picked up right where he left off.

Stenson was flawless during his opening round at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, shooting an 8-under 64 to take a two-shot lead over a group that includes Martin Kaymer and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

The Swede was limited in his practice entering the week, but he showed no signs of rust while playing alongside fellow major champs Danny Willett and Dustin Johnson. Starting on the back nine, Stenson shot an outward 30 and appeared ready to challenge the course record of 62 that he shot in 2006.

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While that didn't come to fruition, Stenson still curled in a 12-foot birdie on No. 9 to cap a bogey-free round and build an early advantage.

"I'm delighted with that score," Stenson said. "I think I scored better than what I played, but I kept it under control somewhat, hit a couple of close iron shots and made the putts. There wasn't much stress out there."

Stenson hasn't played since a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge, and he didn't arrive to Abu Dhabi until Tuesday because of a detour to Stockholm to accept the award as Swedish male athlete of the year. Given his opening-round success, he joked that he may consider adopting this new pre-tournament routine going forward.

"It must be the lack of practice that does it," he said. "A lack of sleep and a lack of practice."