Johannesburg - South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel returned to form with a five-under 67 in the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, at Yas Links, on Thursday.
In a day of low scoring in the DP World Tour event, Schwartzel’s impressive opening saw him end tied-ninth position. Scotland’s Scott Jamieson led the way on nine-under 63, one shot ahead of Norway’s Victor Hovland and two ahead of Belgian Thomas Pieters.
It’s the first tournament of 2022 for Schwartzel, who last teed it up in the World Technology Championship on the US PGA Tour in November, when he finished just inside the top-50. In fact, Schwartzel had just two top-10 finishes in 2021 as he ended the year ranked 108th in the world.
The 2011 Masters champion carded seven birdies and two bogeys on his way to his five-under total which saw him finish as the top SA player on day one.
A full dozen SA players are in action in Abu Dhabi, with the pair of Justin Harding and Erik van Rooyen both shooting tidy opening rounds of three-under 69 for a share of 17th.
Harding, in particular, had a bit of a roller coaster round with three bogeys, three birdies and an eagle at the par five 11th. Van Rooyen reeled off five birdies and two drops on his way to a position inside the top-20.
Four South Africans are tied for 56th on one-under including Daniel van Tonder, Richard Sterne and Dean Burmester with opening 71s. Oliver Bekker is also on one-under, but had three holes left to complete when play was suspended.
George Coetzee signed for a level par 72 in a tie for 77th, while the top-ranked SA player in the field Garrick Higgo settled for an opening one-over 73 for 90th position on the leaderboard.
The trio of Justin Walters, Brandon Stone and Darren Fichardt were in a share of 106th with first round two-over 74s.
There were meant to be 13 SA players teeing it up in Abu Dhabi, but Joburg Open champion Thriston Lawrence was forced to withdraw after testing positive for Covid-19.