DJ, Fowler both slow out of gates in Abu Dhabi

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There were plenty of low scores during the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, but none were carded by the top two Americans in the field.

At world No. 3, Dustin Johnson is the highest-ranked player in the field after the withdrawal by Rory McIlroy. Rickie Fowler, meanwhile, is returning to the Middle East to defend the title that still serves as his most recent worldwide victory. Despite the credentials, both players find themselves eight shots adrift after matching rounds of even-par 72.

Johnson played alongside leader Henrik Stenson and watched the Swede get off to a hot start while shooting an opening 64. But Johnson stumbled out of the gates, playing his first seven holes in 2 over en route to an outward 37.


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Fowler's start was equally slow, as he suffered through three bogeys in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-17 while matching Johnson's 1-over 37 on the back nine. He was 2 over through 12 holes before rallying back to even, but the score leaves him outside of the top 70 and on the wrong side of the projected cut line.

But perhaps all is not yet lost for Fowler, who opened with a 2-under 70 last year before carding three straight rounds in the 60s en route to a one-shot win.

Other notable players to struggle in the opening round included Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters (73) and Masters champ Danny Willett (74).