Abu Dhabi: Renato Paratore reeled off four birdies on the final four holes to take the clubhouse lead during the first day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Thursday.
The Italian belied his world ranking of 273 to outshine the likes of world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former Masters champion Sergio Garcia with an eight-under-par round of 64 to lead by two strokes from Koepka and Australian Jason Scrivener.
Koepka, starting on the 10th hole, got off to a flyer and was four-under at the turn. He kept a blemish-free card and picked up two more birdies on the back nine to finish on six-under. The American’s playing partners were defending champion Shane Lowry and two-time Abu Dhabi winner Tommy Fleetwood, but the big Irishman could only manage a two-under 70, with a costly double bogey on the 12th hole - his third. England’s Fleetwood fared a little worse with a one-under 71 that included three birdies and two bogeys.
Koepka was content with his round and insists he will just stick to his gameplan as he bids to claim the Falcon Trophy.
“I just get out there and practice, like I do every week,” he said. “I am always looking to win in every event and this is no different. We will see where it leaves me come Sunday.
“I just want to dedicate myself for the next five years and put my stamp on the game.”
Koepka also admitted he would love to see more of Abu Dhabi if he can find the time. “I enjoy travelling and I love seeing different cultures and cities around the world,” he said.
“Most of the time I don’t get much of a chance as I am out there trying to win, but whenever I get a chance, I go see the sights.”