Tom Buchanan overcomes shaky start in Abu Dhabi

Tom Buchanan admitted to nerves ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Tom Buchanan admitted to nerves ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
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Tom Buchanan overcame his fan club turning him into a nervous wreck on the first tee to give himself a chance of making the cut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

In the biggest test by far in his career - he won a qualifier for UAE-based players to join the likes of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy in the field - the Stranraer man carded a two-over-par 74.

He fared better than major winners Ernie Els (76) and Jose Maria Olazabal (78) and admitted to being satisified with an effort that contained two birdies.

“The first tee was very nerve-wracking as there was a big crowd,” said Buchanan, who did his PGA training at Duddingston before taking up a post at Al Ain Golf Club six years ago.

“They started singing and probably thought that would help me, but it actually made me feel worse.”

The newly-turned 38-year-old praised his two playing partners, Englishman Paul Waring and Ricardo Gouevia from Portugal, for helping him settle down.

“The first couple of holes were pretty shaky but Paul and Ricardo were great and helped me along,” added Buchanan.

“I dropped a shot at the third and never really gave myself any chances on the front nine. I’d talked all week about having to drive the ball well and I drove it terribly for the first nine holes.

“I hit a terrible tee shot at the ninth into the water and a second shot at the 17th that didn’t deserve anything better than a bogey and I’m two over.

“I hung in there pretty well. At one point I was starting to get a wee bit down, especially at the ninth. But, after making an up and down out of the bunker there for a bogey, I then birdied the 10th.

“I had a good birdie at the 16th before hitting one of the worst shots I’ve hit in a year at the 17th to miss the green 30 yards right behind a tree.

“All in all, it was a wonderful experience and if someone had offered me 74 this morning, I think I would have taken it.

“It gives me a chance tomorrow, when I will hopefully be a bit more relaxed. I played ok today for two-over and if I can get under par tomorrow then it gives me a chance of being here for the weekend.”

Among those cheeing him on were Alastair McLean, his old boss at Duddingston, and Gregor Munro, his brother-in-law.

“I tried to block out knowing that I had a lot of people there watching me and was doing ok until they started screaming on the first tee and I hit a big massive pull,” he admitted.

“Tomorrow is going to be worse as there’s more coming. It is great for me and my family and also Al Ain as a club. It’s a big stage and where we all want to be as professional golfers. I have enjoyed it.”

The highlight of his day? “Making a 3 at the 16th, where I hit a good drive and a 6 iron to 15 feet,” he replied. “That was as perfect a hole as I played all day.

“Also the cheer up the last - it was very nice to hear people out there supporting me.”