Thomas Pieters Leads in Abu Dhabi After 36 Holes

Thomas Pieters Leads in Abu Dhabi

A chip-in birdie on his final hole gave Thomas Pieters a one-shot lead heading into the weekend at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The 25-year old Belgian finished his bogey-free round with seven birdies, including a pair of back-to-backs (Nos. 1-2 and 8-9), en route to a 36-hole total of 12 under, one clear of Spain’s Jorge Campillo.

“We have a decent game plan. I’ve done well here in the past and it suits me,” said Pieters, who finished runner-up here in 2016. “We hit driver wherever we can and the rest of it, it’s good ball-striking and going at a couple flags with wedges when you have them that you need to do that.

“I hit most of the middle of the greens. If I had a wedge, I went at the flag and I think I got up-and-down or made birdie with a wedge in my hand three or four times. It wasn’t really that fancy today but a very good round.”

Campillo shot 8-under 64 to sit alone in the second spot at 11 under, while defending champion Tommy Fleetwood was one further back at 10 under, following a second-round 68. The Englishman is T3, alongside a pair of teammates from last week’s EurAsia Cup: compatriot Ross Fisher (67) and Frenchman Alexander Levy (65).

Rory McIlroy posted a day-two round of 66, and headlines a group of five players tied for sixth at 9 under, including England’s Paul Casey (65) and Andy Sullivan (65), along with Aussie Sam Brazel (68) and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger.

“Very satisfying. I’ve done quite a bit of work over the off-season and worked on my swing and a couple little tweaks here and there. They seem to have paid off already. A couple little swing thoughts that I still have but it’s nice to see that the work I put in on the range can translate onto the golf course, and that’s been a great thing to see for me over the last two days,” said McIlroy.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson fired a low-round 64 to move 58 spots up the leaderboard to T11, alongside a pack of six others at 8 under.

Justin Rose posted a second-consecutive 71 and is now 10 off the lead at 2 under, alongside fellow Olympic medalist, Matt Kuchar (70).


TOP 10: ROUND TWO

1 Thomas Pieters -12
2 Jorge Campillo -11
3 Ross Fisher -10
3 Alexander Levy -10
3 Tommy Fleetwood -10
6 Paul Casey -9
6 Sam Brazel -9
6 Bernd Wiesberger -9
6 Rory McIlroy -9
6 Andy Sullivan -9


OTHER NOTABLES

11 Branden Grace -8
21 Matt Fitzpatrick -6
21 Henrik Stenson -6
30 Tyrrell Hatton -5
57 Justin Rose -2
57 Matt Kuchar -2
57 Thomas Bjorn -2


MISSED CUT

72 Lee Westwood -1
72 Ian Poulter -1
104 Bryson DeChambeau +2
116 Ernie Els +4
123 Jose Maria Olazabal +7


SHOT OF THE DAY

Dustin Johnson, from a divot at 168 yards, hits his approach on the par-4 6th hole to about a foot of the pin. Just pure.

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QUOTABLE

“You get the competitive juices again. The rough is knocked off from last week, and especially coming down 18 with Ben last week, you feel a bit of nerves, which is good. It’s nice to feel that again, and then obviously it’s good to start the year on a positive note. I stayed very patient. I wasn’t making many putts today. I was hitting some good shots into the greens and 17, straight up the hill, hit a good stroke on it. Went in. And 18, I hit three really good shots. Very happy with an eagle on the last, of course.”
– Thomas Pieters


Credits: European Tour Media, Getty Images


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