After more than 500 rounds of European Tour competition, Rory McIlroy recorded his first hole-in-one on day two of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
McIlroy celebrated the 10th anniversary of the event when his 177-yard 9-iron shot pitched three foot left of the flag at the par three, 15th hole but then kicked right before running into the hole.
There was no prize of a new car, cash or champagne for the World No. 1, just the honour on the next tee ahead of a superb birdie at the last in a round of a six under par 66 to move into third place at 11-under par.
Germany’s Martin Kaymer, a triple Abu Dhabi champion, added a 67 to enjoy a one-stroke lead at 13-under from Belgium’s talented Thomas Pieters, who also signed for a 67. Kaymer is now a remarkable 100-under par in 30 rounds at the National course.
McIlroy recalled his first hole in one, as a then nine-year-old, on his beloved Holywood Golf Club when he aced the par three 17th sixth hole.
“I also hit an 9-iron back then and it was something like 106 yards. But this is the very first in competitive play as a pro,” he said.
McIlroy now finds himself again in position to win an event he has finished second in more times than any other tournament and is excited to take Kaymer head on.
“Now with two rounds to play, I have the challenge ahead of me that I wanted and I could not think of a better way to start the new season than to test yourself against one of the best players in the world, a two-time Major winner, who has enjoyed a lot of success on this course, as well,” he said.
Damien McGrane, with a score of 69 for a share of 26th place at four under par, will join McIlroy in playing all four rounds.
Cut from the event were Michael Hoey (74) and Darren Clarke (71), each missing out by just a stroke on one under par, and with Hoey never recovering in starting day two with a pair of double bogeys.
Meantime Rory McIlroy is set to be joined by his father and closest colleagues at this year’s Yas Island Links Invitational, a Pro-Am being to be staged on Sunday, January 25 in Abu Dhabi.
The World No. 1 will contest the now annual event for a first time and will be joined by his father, Gerry, manager Sean O’Flaherty along with caddy, JP Fitzgerald plus close friend Harry Diamond.
They will tee up on the acclaimed Kyle Phillips-designed course located across the road from the Yas Island F1 Grand Prix circuit.
Others competing include McIlroy’s Ryder Cup-winning team-mates in Thomas Bjorn, Victor Dubuisson, and Stephen Gallacher, along with three former Ryder Cup stars including McIlroy’s fellow former British Open winner Sandy Lyle.
McIlroy is not contesting next week’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters but will be remaining in nearby Dubai ahead of teeing up in the January 29-starting Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
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