Martin Kaymer wasn’t a fan of recent changes to Abu Dhabi Golf Club, and that’s understandable – he’s a record three-time winner there, including a runner-up in 2009.
On Wednesday, he said that the course has changed for the worse over the years, with tweaks to a few greens and tee boxes.
“I really, really liked it the way it was,” Kaymer said, but he didn’t seem to mind Thursday when he opened with an 8-under 64 to set the early pace at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Kaymer won here in 2008, ’10 and ’11 and is off to another banner start after making 10 birdies in the opening round, including three in his last four holes.
In 29 career rounds at Abu Dhabi GC, he is a combined 122 under par with a scoring average of 67.79.
The 64 left him one shot clear of Thomas Pieters, the 2012 NCAA individual champion, who this week has spent time in the United Arab Emirates with his former college coach, Illinois’ Mike Small.
Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler are another two shots back.
Kaymer tied for second in his most recent start, the Thailand Golf Championship in December. It was just his third top 10 worldwide since he won the U.S. Open.