World Number Nine Tyrrell Hatton leapfrogged Rory McIlroy into the lead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the first Rolex Series event of the year, to finish 12-under par at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club before round two action was halted due to fading light.
Following yesterday’s delayed start due to fog, Hatton and McIlroy began their second rounds late in the afternoon and the Englishman made a fast start, following up his two eagles from round one with another on the second hole today, before four consecutive birdies saw him take the outright clubhouse lead.
Hatton became only the second player to win three Rolex Series events last summer and he will be aiming to add a fourth to the list on Sunday to get his 2021 Race to Dubai season off to a flying start.
After being in imperious touch yesterday, McIlroy started the day in a similar vein with two birdies through three holes, but a dropped shot on four and a double-bogey on the next wiped his lead.
The Northern Irishman has previously finished runner-up on four occasions in Abu Dhabi and will be keen to make the most of moving day if he is to finally lift the famous Falcon Trophy.
Earlier in the day, two-time Abu Dhabi HSBC Champion, Tommy Fleetwood was one of a group of players to finish their first round – after a disappointing front nine yesterday, he bounced back with four birdies in his final nine holes to post 71 before carding a bogey-free 67 in his second round to move six-under.
Playing alongside defending champion Lee Westwood and McIlroy, World Number Three Justin Thomas was in better touch today to finish one-under with four holes to play on his debut in the United Arab Emirates.
Having completed their second rounds Australian Jason Scrivener and Thailand’s number-one Jazz Janewattananond sit at seven-under alongside McIlroy and Frenchman Romain Langasque, who are yet to complete their second rounds.
UAE number one golfer Ahmad Skaik is unlikely to make the cut following a triple-bogey on 11 scuppered his second-round in his reappearance at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, he will finish his second round early on day three.
After play stopped, Hatton said:
“Yeah, I'm obviously in a great position at the moment. It was certainly tough out there, so I'm really happy to be five-under.
“I held some nice putts and there was a couple par putts toward the end of my round, nice to hole them and keep a bit of momentum going.”
Noting his improved performance today, Fleetwood added:
“Yesterday, I struggled, I think I just forced it a little bit. It was really windy going out there in tough conditions and I think I tried to force a few golf shots playing in the wind, trying too hard.
“Today, I did things a lot better. I was driving it really well and that made such a big difference in the wind. I hit some great irons, holed out really well. I didn't really give anything away. It was a much better day.”
Play will restart at 7:30am tomorrow to complete the second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Round three will be played in three balls and will not start before 10:00am.
First staged in 2006, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is hosted at the iconic Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the 16th consecutive year from January 21-24, 2021, with a prize fund of US$8 million and 8,000 Race to Dubai points available.