Almost a year on from his maiden European Tour win, Joachim B Hansen was back at the top of the leaderboard after day one of the AVIV Dubai Championship.
The Dane won the Joburg Open 354 days ago and continued his fine November form at Jumeirah Golf Estates, carding a bogey-free 63 to get to nine under and match his lowest European Tour round.
Defending champion Antoine Rozner continued his excellent record over the Fire Course with a 65 to sit two shots back alongside South African Dean Burmester and English pair Andy Sullivan and Paul Waring.
Hansen arrived in Dubai 85th in the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex, but is aiming for the top 51 and a third consecutive appearance in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
The two-time European Challenge Tour graduate and 2018 No 1 has achieved back-to-back top-50 finishes in the Race to Dubai’s season- long standings since his return to the European Tour, and a successful two weeks in the UAE could have him pass his career-high finish of 44th.
A victory this week would also make it four Danish winners in the last 10 European Tour events, and Hansen made a perfect start with nine unanswered birdies.
“I had some good practice days with my coach here the last few days, my game yesterday looked solid,” he said. “Good warm-up on the range today and had confidence going out there and it showed itself out there.
“I loved it, no wind, perfect conditions and lovely to play in. I kept the ball in play, hit a lot of fairways in the first 14 holes but I holed the putts I needed, missed a few ones but you can’t hole them all.
“The greens are quite soft and they stop pretty quick when it’s not down-grain, so you’ve got a lot of opportunities when you’re hitting from the fairway.”
Hansen made four birdies in a row from the 4th and added another on the 9th to turn in 31.
Further gains on the 12th and 13th had him in a tie for the lead and he birdied the 17th before hitting the green in two on the par-five 18th to extend his advantage.
Frenchman Rozner started on the 10th and gains on the 13th, 14th, 18th, 1st, 3rd, 5th and 6th took his score for five rounds over the Fire Course to 32 under.
Sullivan finished second at this event last season and he made six birdies in seven holes from the 12th to turn in 30.
A bogey on the 1st stalled his momentum but he picked the shot back up on the 5th and holed from 35 feet on the 8th.
Burmester holed a 35-footer of his own on the 4th to go with birdies on the 13th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 6th and 7th.
Waring started his round with a bogey on the 10th but hit back with gains on the 13th, 17th, 18th, 3rd and 4th before eagling the 7th and adding another birdie on the 8th.
South Africans Darren Fichardt and Zander Lombard, English duo Tommy Fleetwood and Callum Shinkwin and Italian Francesco Laporta were at six under.
The South African pair were both bogey-free in their rounds of 66, while Shinkwin coupled nine birdies with three bogeys, Fleetwood made eight birdies and Laporta made an eagle and five birdies with a single dropped shot.
There were then 15 players four shots off the lead.
– Report from europeantour.com
Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images
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