OPPORTUNITY knocked for Chris Paisley – originally a reserve for this weeks’ HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi – when a late drop-out enabled him to join the field, writes TIM TAYLOR.
The former Walker Cup man from Mickley, Northumberland, started to make the most of his opportunity with a one-under 71 in the biggest tournament of his career so far.
That gave him a share of 16th place after the first round, four shots behind joint leaders Justin Rose and Welshman Jamie Donaldson.
The Fantasy Island element of Paisley’s introduction to big-time events was the fact the European Tour rookie lies one shot ahead ahead of Tiger Woods and four in front of an off-key Rory McIlroy.
After a round which contained three birdies and two bogeys, the 26-year-old Paisley headed for the practice range with coach Andrew Nicholson saying: “I hit the ball well but there is room for improvement”.
There is irony in Nicholson, who coaches the Durham county men’s and junior squads at Wynyard’s Leadbetter Academy, being in the corner for the pride of Northumberland!
Coach and player had planned to spend the week on warm-weather preparation in Portugal, but flew instead to the Middle East after Paisley heard he had a spot in the tournament.
Before leaving, Paisley joined in a golf lesson his brother Andy, the Hexham club’s head professional, gave on Saturday to Foxton’s McGregor Trophy holder Jake Storey, discussing the teenager’s gym work and other preparation.
On Wednesday, Paisley practised in front of hundreds of spectators on the Abu Dhabi range because world No 1 McIlroy was hitting balls alongside him.
Paisley added: “It has been a fantastic experience so far.
“I was a bit nervous when I teed off but, because I was hitting the ball well, that calmed me down.
“I am pleased with hanging on to my score because there were a lot of crosswinds on the closing holes and the greens were firm.”
Paisley, who represented the Stocksfield club as an amateur, is playing all three tournaments in the Middle East swing – moving on to Qatar next week and then Dubai.
Yesterday, one of the players alongside Woods one shot back from Paisley was Hartlepool’s Graeme Storm, with Penrith’s Gary Lockerbie in danger of missing the cut on two over.
Rose came out of the shadows of Woods and McIlroy again to underline what a force he also is now in golf.
After McIlroy struggled to a 75 with his new Nike equipment and Woods began his season with a real mixed bag of a 72, Rose marked his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship debut with a five-under-par 67. The world number five shares the lead with Welshman Jamie Donaldson..
(Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72):
67 Justin Rose, Jamie Donaldson
68 Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Pablo Larrazabal (Spa)
69 Michael Campbell (Nzl), David Howell, Wen-chong Liang (Chn), George Coetzee (Rsa), Henrik Stenson (Swe)
70 Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind), Joost Luiten (Ned), Danny Willett, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (Spa), Thongchai Jaidee (Tha)
71 Anders Hansen (Den), Garth Mulroy (Rsa), Ricardo Santos (Por), Branden Grace (Rsa), Martin Kaymer (Ger), Simon Wakefield, Johan Edfors (Swe), Joel Sjoholm (Swe), Lee Slattery, Ernie Els (Rsa), Jason Dufner (USA), Gareth Maybin, Chris Paisley, Paul Casey, Andy Sullivan, Richard Green (Aus)
72 Tiger Woods (USA), Matteo Manassero (Ita), Peter Lawrie, Graeme Storm, Alessandro Tadini (Ita), Thomas Bjorn (Den), Michael Hoey, Richard Bland, Craig Lee, Espen Kofstad (Nor), Phillip Price, Marcel Siem (Ger), Darren Fichardt (Rsa), Raphael Jacquelin (Fra), Ricardo Gonzalez (Arg), Jbe Kruger (Rsa), Keith Horne (Rsa), Gregory Bourdy (Fra), Mark Foster, Padraig Harrington, Fredrik Andersson Hed (Swe)