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Lack of golf practice makes Henrik perfect

Press Association logoPress Association 19/01/2017 Phil Casey

Despite a limited preparation, European No.1 Henrik Stenson has fired a stunning opening round at the Abu Dhabi Championship.

The Open champion has spent more time skiing than playing golf since finishing second in December's Hero World Challenge, a fortnight after winning the Race to Dubai for a second time in four years.

But the 40-year-old Swede showed no signs of rust as he raced to the top of the leaderboard on Thursday with a flawless 64 in Abu Dhabi, the only venue on the European Tour's 'Desert Swing' where he was yet to record a victory.

"It must be that lack of practice that does it," Stenson said after starting on the 10th and racing to the turn in 30, before picking up further shots on the seventh and ninth.

"Lack of sleep, lack of practice, but I'm obviously delighted with that score.

"I think I scored a bit better than I played but I kept it under control somewhat, hit a couple of close iron shots and made the putts - wasn't too much stress out there after all."

Asked how much practice he had done in the off-season, the world No.4 told Sky Sports: "I was working on my putting, some short game, hit a couple of buckets last week and then flew to Sweden (on Monday).

"I was there for the sports awards, came down here on Tuesday morning, so very limited preparations. That might be the way forward."

At eight-under-par, Stenson held a two-shot lead over three-time winner and Ryder Cup teammate Martin Kaymer, whose six-under 66 was matched by England's Oliver Fisher and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

England's Tyrrell Hatton was a shot further back, with Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on four under after six birdies and two bogeys in a 68.

Defending champion Rickie Fowler and fellow American Dustin Johnson had to settle for even-par rounds of 72, while Masters champion Danny Willett struggled to a 74 which included a triple-bogey seven on the 14th.

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