HSBC Champion 2015: Its the Rory and Rickie show as McIlroy and Fowler do battle


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Those who like to take a little sport with their breakfasts will have enjoyed the spectacle of Rory and Rickie kicking up a desert storm in Abu Dhabi this morning.

Easy on the eye and suffuse with effortless charm, McIlroy and Fowler are becoming a kind of golfing Ant and Dec, delivering the goods in a blaze of popularity. Well, what’s not to like about the game’s biggest ticket sellers trading birdies at the top of the HSBC Champions leaderboard?

Both cardied 67s to sit two shots off the early lead in a tie for fourth place behind young Belgian Thomas Pieters.

Starting at the tenth, McIlroy was first out of the gate with an opening birdie. Fowler was more circumspect but reached the turn two under and two clear of the world no.1, who struggled to find his imperious best off the tee in what was for both their first competitive rounds of the year.

The back nine was a different story. McIlroy rattled of five birdies in six holes to close on five under par alongside Fowler, who was pegged by a bogey at the last, which took the shine off what had been a putting exhibition.

McIlroy’s round turned at the par-5 3rd, his 12, where from a desperate lie on the edge of one bunker he narrowly flew another to find the green and turn what might have been a bogey into a red number.     

“It's not a shot I would practice too much, that's for sure. But from looking like you're going to make a bogey to making a birdie that gives you a little bit of momentum and you can go on from there and luckily I was able to make a few birdies after that,” he said.

A hole-in-one at the seventh earned Tom Lewis a Cadillac Escalade in front of his watching father.

After his best 200 yards since leading the Open at Royal St George’s in 2011, Lewis said: “It was a nice seven iron and as soon as I hit it I said ‘that's got a chance’. I was just waiting for my dad's reaction, who was down by the green.”