WHO’D have believed it? On a desert course, they moaned about the grass. Well, Sergio Garcia did anyway.
The Spaniard hurt his shoulder coming out of thick rough in the pro-am and needed treatment on the way round yesterday as he opened the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship with a 76 to sit outside the top 100.
“I would say that the rough is dangerous,” he said afterwards. “Hopefully nobody else will get injured.”
According to Garcia, part of the problem is the way the thick stuff has been prepared. “They have cut it from green back to the tee and, by doing that, the ball nestles down quite a bit,” he added.
The course is certainly lush following wet weather last week but, responding to Garcia, a fellow Spaniard defended the set-up. “We have actually cut the rough back more this year than in previous years,” said tournament director Miguel Vidaor. He added: “Cutting rough from tee to green is normal practice on the European Tour and has been the case in all previous editions of this event.”
Phil Mickelson was in the rough a lot, too, in an opening 73 that saw him drop his only shot of the day at his last – after 17 pars. “You’ve got to get the ball in play here,” admitted the Open champion.
Despite its pre-event billing, a new driver wasn’t even close to finding the fairway at the tenth – his opening hole – and it didn’t come out of the bag much thereafter.
“I hit a lot of 3-woods to try to get it in play but, having not hit as many fairways as I need to, I may have to fall back and hit hybrids,” added Mickelson.
Out in the same group, Mickelson was given a driving lesson by Rory McIlroy, who ripped tee shot after tee shot and, understandably, was a touch disappointed that he had to settle for a two-under 70.
“I’m very happy how I struck the ball tee to green – my drives were both long and straight,” said the two-time major winner. “I didn’t take advantage of some of the opportunities and it could have been better but there were no bogeys and it’s a solid start.”
Often errant from the tee last year, McIlroy described good driving as “the foundation of my game” and Mickelson added: “Rory drove it beautifully and the game becomes easier when that’s the case.”
The tournament organisers will be hoping both McIlroy and Mickelson will still be around tonight, by which stage a year ago the event had lost star attractions McIlroy and Tiger Woods, as both missed the cut.