Golf: Martin Kaymer leads Abu Dhabi Championship

Three-time champion Martin Kaymer surged into the lead at the Abu Dhabi Championship with an eight-under first round on Thursday.

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Three-time champion Martin Kaymer leads the way in the Abu Dhabi Championship after an impressive eight-under opening round on Thursday featuring 10 birdies.

A blistering back nine saw Kaymer - champion at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in 2008, 2010 and 2011 - take over at the top of the leaderboard.

The German came home in 31 strokes to complete a 64 that put him one shot ahead of Thomas Pieters.

And the highlight of Kaymer's round arguably came at the par-five 18th as a stunning 260-yard approach shot set up an eagle putt, which he left marginally short.

"I hit a lot of fairways, my irons were quite sharp and I putted well. It's very difficult to shoot a bad score when you play like this," said Kaymer.

"I putted well. I made 10 birdies. I'm not sure if I have ever done it on a golf course, hit 10 birdies.

Branden Grace, Gregory Bourdy, Tyrrell Hatton, Alexander Levy and Mikko Ilonen went round in 66 to sit two shots off the pace.

Ilonen enjoyed a five-hole birdie streak either side of the turn, while Rory McIlroy, who started at the 10th, also fared well thanks to five birdies on his inward nine.

The world number one secured major success at The Open Championship and US PGA Championship last year and finished his first round of 2015 in a share of eighth at five under, alongside playing partner Rickie Fowler.

"To shoot 67 in the first round of the year is nice, how I got there wasn't quite so glamorous at times," said McIlroy.

"There's a couple of things I need to work on if I'm going to have a chance to win this tournament. I need to drive the ball better and I missed a few opportunities on the greens as well.

"Everything started to come together on the back nine and I'm happy with the 67."

Elsewhere in the field, Gary Stal started his 68 with five successive birdies, while Tom Lewis' hole-in-one at the seventh ensured he won a Cadillac Escalade.

The Englishman was not the only man to record a hole-in-one, however, as Miguel Angel Jimenez picked up his eighth in European Tour competition at the 15th - putting him one behind record-holder Colin Montgomerie.

Alex Noren's first start on the Tour since the BMW PGA Championship last May, following tendonitis in both wrists, began with an impressive round of 67, while New Zealand's Michael Campbell withdrew.

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