01/20 08:36 CST Kaymer takes familiar position as leader in Abu Dhabi
Kaymer takes familiar position as leader in Abu Dhabi
By STEVE DOUGLAS
AP Sports Writer
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) --- New year, same old story for Martin
Kaymer at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The two-time major winner from Germany set up another chance for a fourth
victory at his regular year-opening tournament, shooting a second straight
6-under 66 Friday to take a one-stroke lead after the second round.
"My favorite golf course," Kaymer said after tapping in a birdie on the par-5
18th to nudge ahead of Rafa Cabrera Bello with a 12-under 132 total.
Kaymer has averaged 68.73 in 38 rounds over the 7,583-yard National Course, a
long track that suits his eye and his game. He feels extremely confident on the
greens --- he already has 14 birdies and an eagle this week --- and the
course's many doglegs is perfect for a player who fades the ball off the tee.
"He's a dangerous player around here," said Henrik Stenson, who gave up his
first-round lead to his Ryder Cup teammate. "I think it sets up beautifully for
him. He's shown that in the past with three wins here."
Those victories came in 2008, '10 and '11. The 53rd-ranked Kaymer should have
had another in 2015, only to throw away a 10-shot lead with 13 holes to play
and get reeled in by Gary Stal.
Kaymer's round on Friday took off after rolling in a 20-foot eagle putt on No.
8, allowing him to rebound from a bogey on No. 6. He birdied six holes on the
back nine as the wind died down, having been quite strong in the early
Sunny and still conditions greeted Cabrera Bello in the morning and the
Spaniard responded with 66 of his own, completed by three straight birdies.
Cabrera Bello has been a regular top-10 finisher on the European Tour in recent
years --- he had six of them in the 2016 season alone --- and his consistency
earned him a debut on the European team at the Ryder Cup last year. But his
last win came at the Dubai Desert Classic in February 2012.
"A couple of times I felt that maybe I made a few mistakes, that I have learned
from them," said Cabrera Bello, who had seven birdies and one bogey. "Other
times, I just felt that the other guys have outplayed me.
"I know I finished second or third many times but not all of them felt like
losses. They felt like good comebacks to finish second or third. I feel like
I'm close, but we will know soon."
There were mixed fortunes for the marquee group of current major champions
Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson and Stenson. Willett, the Masters champion,
missed the cut after adding a 76 to a 74 and finished 121st in the 126-man
field. He had a 9 at the par-5 10th after driving into the desert, hitting the
ball out of bounds, then into a bunker before three-putting.
"Christmas golf-course rust," Willett said.
Johnson, the U.S. Open champion, shot a bogey-free 68 to move to 4 under
overall, alongside defending champion Rickie Fowler (68). Surprisingly, the
big-hitting Johnson hasn't picked up a shot in eight tries at a par 5.
Stenson, the British Open champion, is best placed of the big names. His 71
lacked the fireworks of his first round, when he shot 64, but the Swede said he
felt he was hitting the ball better.
Tommy Fleetwood (67), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (68) and Paul Dunne (66) were tied
for third at 10 under, two behind Kaymer.