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Rory McIlroy is pinning his hopes of ending his Abu Dhabi Championship jinx on the 35mph winds that are forecast for the second round.
McIlroy is not exactly renowned as a bad-weather golfer himself, but after a level-par 72 left him nine shots behind first-round leader Scott Jamieson, he says he needs to hang tough and hope the difficult conditions make the field bunch up.
The former World No. 1 has finished runner-up in Abu Dhabi four times, with third-place finishes on another four occasions. He knows another day of low scoring at Yas Links would probably leave him struggling to make the cut rather than mounting another title challenge. So he says a howling gale that should sort the men from the boys is just what he needs.
McIlroy said: "This is not the kind of course where players are likely to make big mistakes in calm conditions, so my best way back into the tournament could be for the strong winds that are forecast to become a reality.
"The tougher the conditions the better really, and I just have to make sure I play well enough to put myself back in contention.
"I was actually pleased with the way I hit the ball today, apart from two loose drives on my second nine that cost me shots. I was two-under with a couple to play, and finishing bogey-bogey left a bit of a sour taste.
"But it was my putting that cost me more than anything. My putt for par at the last that just tailed off at the last second sort of summed up my day on the greens. I'm off to the putting green to work on my pace, but I'm pretty confident my ball-striking was good enough to hold up in the tough conditions."
Hovland in position, Morikawa struggles
Elsewhere, it was a case of mixed fortunes for some of the game's biggest names. Slotting in one shot behind Jamieson is Viktor Hovland, the Norwegian mixing nine birdies and one bogey in an opening 64.
In stark contrast, it was a day to forget for World No. 2 Collin Morikawa. The American failed to get into any sort of rhythm and could only muster a one-over 73, leaving him 10 shots off the early pace.
Late on, Ian Poulter looked like he might challenge Jamieson at the top of the leaderboard until a double bogey at the 16th halted him in his tracks and he had to settle for a six-under 66.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship leaderboard
-9 Scott Jamieson
-8 Viktor Hovland
-7 Thomas Pieters
-6 Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Victor Perez
-5 Shane Lowry
-4 Tommy Fleetwood
-2 Adam Scott
-1 Lee Westwood
E Rory McIlroy
+1 Collin Morikawa
David brings a wealth of experience to Golf Monthly as a freelance contributor having spent more than two decades covering the game as The Sun's golf correspondent. Prior to that, he worked as a sports reporter for the Daily Mail. David has covered the last 12 Ryder Cups and every Masters tournament since 1999. A popular and highly-respected name in the press tents around the world, David has built close relationships with many of the game's leading players and officials.
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