Michael Hoey carded his first bobey free round sunce last October’s British Masters when he opened with a four under 68 in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Set to turn 37 in a fortnight, Hoey birdied the fourth, fifth, 15th and 18th, missing just one green in regulation, to end the day tied for 14th before former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal.
As Paul McGinley made four birdies and four bogeys in a level par 72 to share 62nd spot, Oostuizen shot a flawless, seven under par 65.
The 33-year old South African has won his first tournament of the calendar year in four of the last five years, and he did his chances of continuing that trend no harm at a windy Doha Golf Club, where he shares the lead with Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal.
One shot behind are Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, making only his second European Tour appearance since mid-October last year, England’s Andrew Johnston and Swedish Challenge Tour graduate Björn Åkesson, who impressed with a third place finish in the Joburg Open two weeks ago.
A group of eight players, including Dane Thorbjørn Olesen, Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and two-time former champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland, were two shots back at five under par.
South Africa’s Branden Grace, defending champion and highest ranked player in the field, opened with a two under par 70, as did Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who won here in 2014.
“The most satisfying thing was probably being bogey-free. There were two occasions where I looked like I was going to make bogeys, but I recovered well and the rest was just pretty solid. I like playing in the desert. I always play well around here and just like the golf course, and I like playing in windy conditions – although if it gets really windy it’s going to be difficult. I don’t know the reason why I always play well in January – probably because I’m well rested after a long break and a holiday. I should take more eight-week breaks. I enjoy the time away from the course and not touching my clubs, and afterwards I’m ready to go again and hungry to get back playing.”
“I hit it very well from tee to green and made 17 greens in regulation, which in these conditions is very good. I gave myself a lot of birdie chances and that was key because with these tricky greens, you're not going to hole too many, but I holed seven, so it was very good. Last year I was playing very well in the middle of the season but then got a big injury at The Open Championship, and after that it was very tough to keep the rhythm and to come back. Consistency is the way we want to work, and to start playing more rounds under par is the way to go.”
“When I drive it that well, it makes a round a lot easier. When it’s on like this it’s very stress-free. If I'm as good as I was off the tee today, it makes a big difference to the rest of my game because I can come in with shorter irons into the greens.
“I had one of the best winters I’ve had in recent years. Since I didn’t play any Final Series event last season, I stopped a lot earlier than previous years. Even though I went to Australia and Thailand and played a couple of events, I felt like it was good to see something else for a while and not get stuck in seeing the same people and playing golf with the same people all the time. It was just a matter of playing tournaments without having the stress of rankings, which I had for most of the season last year.”
“My game feels really good. I changed my grip a little bit this morning on the driving range, and it worked out really well today. So I would say that’s the key. And I putted well on the front nine. I had lots of chances on the back nine, as well, but missed many of them. The golf course is fantastic and I love the back nine. It’s got so many good holes, and the finishing three holes are amazing. It feels like I’m developing my game all the time, and hopefully I’m looking bright for the future.”
“I’m very happy with the score today. I’m pleased with the way I controlled the ball flight and I putted well, so it was good. It was tricky today. You’ve got quite a few crosswinds, so you want to be starting the ball wide enough and not losing it in the wind, and controlling the distance coming into some of the greens. And then putting can be difficult. The greens are grainier than last week and especially with the winds, it’s tricky. I had a great break in December. I watched Arsenal quite a lot, I watched the darts, and spent time with my mates and family. It was a good rest.”
Round 1 scores
65 L Oosthuizen (RSA), P Larrazábal (Esp),
66 B Åkesson (Swe), A Johnston (Eng), N Colsaerts (Bel),
67 T Fleetwood (Eng), P Lawrie (Sco), K Broberg (Swe), G Bourdy (Fra), R Cabrera-Bello (Esp), T Olesen (Den), G Coetzee (RSA), R Gouveia (Por),
68 E Els (RSA), B Wiesberger (Aut), M Hoey (Nir), C Lutton (Sco), T Jaidee (Tha), L Bjerregaard (Den), B Rumford (Aus), T Immelman (RSA), R Rock (Eng) , C Shinkwin (Eng) ,, ,
69 J Carlsson (Swe), B Evans (Eng), R Davies (Wal), R Kakko (Fin), M Kieffer (Ger), K Aphibarnrat (Tha), M Siem (Ger), J Fahrbring (Swe), A Noren (Swe) , L Slattery (Eng) , M Fraser (Aus) , J Campillo (Esp) , T Bjørn (Den)
70 B Grace (RSA), J Luiten (Ned), S Garcia (Esp), S Kjeldsen (Den), P Edberg (Swe), J Morrison (Eng), W Ormsby (Aus), A Quiros (Esp), N Holman (Aus),
71 M Carlsson (Swe), G Havret (Fra), D Brooks (Eng), D Lipsky (USA), N Fasth (Swe), P Uihlein (USA), B Hebert (Fra), J Hansen (Den), D Drysdale (Sco), M Ilonen (Fin), T Hatton (Eng), R Ramsay (Sco), B Dredge (Wal), N Elvira (Esp), E Espana (Fra), H Porteous (RSA),
72 T Fisher Jnr (RSA), J Quesne (Fra), P McGinley (Irl), S Hend (Aus), B Virto Astudillo (Esp), A Dodt (Aus), R Jacquelin (Fra), M Korhonen (Fin), E De La Riva (Esp), J Lagergren (Swe), P Meesawat (Tha), O Wilson (Eng), R Bland (Eng), B Stone (RSA), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), H Otto (RSA), S Gallacher (Sco), J Cheng (am) (Chn),
73 M Warren (Sco), D Fichardt (RSA), R Dinwiddie (Eng), C Lee (Sco), S Jamieson (Sco), J Jeong (Kor), O Fisher (Eng), J Busby (Eng), M Weir (Can), W Ashun (Chn), A Cañizares (Esp), R Karlsson (Swe), D Howell (Eng), B Dechambeau (am) (USA),
74 S Benson (Eng), A McArthur (Sco), P Hanson (Swe), M Madsen (Den), A Levy (Fra), C Wood (Eng), F Zanotti (Par), F Aguilar (Chi), G Stal (Fra), G Storm (Eng), U Van Den Berg (RSA),
75 T Linard (Fra), R Paratore (Ita), E Pepperell (Eng), J Parry (Eng), C Paisley (Eng), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), J McLeary (Sco), T Pieters (Bel), M Baldwin (Eng) , M Manassero (Ita) , G Boyd (Eng) , S Khan (Eng) , A Al Shahrani (am) (Qat) ,
76 S Gros (Fra), S Dyson (Eng), R Wattel (Fra), D Foos (Ger),
79 S Webster (Eng), J Daly (USA), R Thomas (am) (Ind), A Al Kaabi (am) (Qat),
RET J Winther (Den),