Dubai Desert Classic: Sterne takes slender lead in first round

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South Africa's Richard Sterne during the first round. (Twitter)
South Africa's Richard Sterne during the first round. (Twitter)

Dubai - Sterne, who is 25th on the Race to Dubai, had nine birdies and a bogey in his round

By James Jose

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Published: Thu 28 Jan 2021, 6:47 PM

Last updated: Thu 28 Jan 2021, 6:59 PM

South African Richard Sterne shot the lowest score of the day to take a slender lead after the opening round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday.

On a day when the early groups strode out into a hazy morning, Sterne was part of the last groups to tee off past noon. And the 39-year-old from Pretoria made full use of the pleasant conditions to nudge his way to the top, in fading light.

Sterne, who has six wins on the European Tour, carded an eight-under par 64 at the Majlis Course of the Emirates Golf Club, to hold a one-stroke lead over American Kurt Kitayama.

Sterne, who is 25th on the Race to Dubai, had nine birdies and a bogey in his round.

Kitayama, meanwhile, shot six birdies, an eagle and a bogey, for his seven-under.

“It's always good to get off to a good start,” Sterne, who finished 25th in the season-opening Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship last weekend, said after his round.

“It helps you for the rest of the week, I think. I've come close here before. So, it would be nice to have a chance going into the weekend.

"I haven't had many chances going into weeks for a long time, so it would be nice to get through tomorrow and place myself well and see how the weekend goes,” he added.

Spaniard Sergio Garcia, winner here in 2017, carded a sublime six-under par 66 to be tied third along with South African Justin Harding.

Garcia, who had withdrawn from last year’s Masters in November after testing Covid positive, had held the clubhouse lead with Harding before Kitayama and Sterne climbed to the top.

Paired with world No.4 American Collin Morikawa and Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, and teeing off from the 10th, the world No.45 hardly encountered a blip, shooting four birdies in his round.

The 41-year-old shot back-to-back birdies on the par-5 13th and par-4 14th before finishing his front nine with a birdie on the par-4 17th.

His return journey almost mirrored the front nine with the 2017 Masters champion firing successive birdies on the second and third before wrapping his round by birdie putting the par-4 sixth.

“Yeah, I felt comfortable out there for sure. I felt like I hit a lot of good shots,” said Garcia.

“Conditions obviously were good, but they were tricky. The greens are a little patchy when it comes down to firmness. Some spots are really firm and some spots you can definitely spin it. So, it's just a matter of getting the right hops there. But other than that, I felt like it was a good, solid day, and very happy with the way it went,” he added.

England’s Paul Casey, Spaniard Adrian Otaegui, Belgian Thomas Detry and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre were tied fifth on five-under.

Race to Dubai champion Lee Westwood shot a three-under to be tied 17th.

Hatton, who vaulted to No.5 in the world rankings following his success in Abu Dhabi, endured a tough day with the Englishman carding a four-over 76.

Starting from the back nine, the six-time European Tour winner shot a birdie and four bogeys in his round. Morikawa, meanwhile, shot a one-under 71 for the day.

India’s Shubhankar Sharma, a two-time winner on the European Tour, had a decent outing, firing a two-under 70 on the day to be tied 20th. The 24-year-old, who had completed a double of winning the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year and the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2018, came up with four birdies and two bogeys.

Meanwhile, defending champion Australia’s Lucas Herbert, who had won a thrilling play-off against South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout to lift the Dallah Trophy last year, carded a two-over 74.

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