Golf: Scots endure tough first day in Abu Dhabi

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IN WHAT is a rare occurrence lately, the Saltire wasn’t flying high on the leaderboard after the opening day of the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship in the UAE capital.

None of the 12 Scots in the field managed to break par, although they were not alone in finding it tough going on a day when 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke slumped to a 79 to sit 122nd with only four players below him.

Stirling’s Craig Lee fared best among the Tartan Army, carding a level-par 72 to be alongside Tiger Woods in joint 30th. Having taken it to the wire before retaining his card for this year – he finished 115th in last season’s Race to Dubai – Lee is determined his 2013 campaign will be less stressful.

“It would be nice to keep the card a bit more comfortably than last year,” he admitted after finishing with two birdies in his last four holes.

“It makes a big difference to have a good start to the season and I have five events in a row – three in the Gulf then two in South Africa – to try to do that.

“That’s a big difference from last year, when I had two in South Africa then I had five or six weeks off. It was hard to keep the momentum going.”

Richie Ramsay described his short game as “rubbish” as he opened with a 73, the same as Peter Whiteford, while Paul Lawrie could only muster one birdie in his 74. Race to Dubai leader Scott Jamieson started with two bogeys as he had to settle for a 75 – his worst round so far in the 2013 campaign but still better than Colin Montgomerie and Stephen Gallacher, the latter taking an 8 at the eighth as they signed for 76s. Chris Doak and David Drysdale both had 77s, Marc Warren went 7-6-7 from the eighth in his 78, the same as Scott Henry, while Dubai-based PGA pro Callum Nicoll is 
joint-last after an 81.