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Hatton tees off on the 9th hole during the opening round of the 16th Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Thursday.

By Kent Gray
After a near three hour delay for fog, it didn’t take long for Tyrrell Hatton to get the new European Tour season off to a fast and spectacular start.

After piercing the fairway with his opening drive, the Englishman launched a three wood to within five feet of the pin on the par-5 10th on the National and duly rolled in the putt for a near-perfect eagle to ignite the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship into life. Check it out:

It was going to be hard to top that kind of early ball striking but Hatton did just that, cashing-in on some deft wedge work to save par more than once on the next seven holes before hitting another 3-wood laser beam even closer on the 18th, his 9th, to bookend an outward nine played in 32 strokes with eagles.

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As commentator Ken Brown said on the TV broadcast “they’re two of the best [shots] you’re likely to see all season”, and the season was barely two hours old.

Three further birdies saw Hatton sign for a seven-under 65, to be well-positioned just a stroke shy of early first-round clubhouse leader Rory McIlroy.

The eagles weren’t the only highlights from the world No.10. A pushed drive on the 2nd produced a club drop and earned the wayward sphere a sarcastic double thumbs up from Hatton. It drew a rueful smile too, something the once fiery Hatton is learning to flash more often, as well as one of those three homeward nine birdies.

Cue Brown again: “He does smile, when he does smile it sort of brightens your heart [because] it doesn’t happen very often.”

Hatton was ultimately pleased with his day’s work, if not always his ball striking.

“Yeah, obviously two good shots. It’s not often you’re hitting 3-wood to five feet and a nice one to start the day,” he said of the opening eagle.

“I’m really happy with that. I think I got away with it, 10 holes, I hit one fairway, so that wasn’t ideal. The wind certainly picked up as the round went on, which I think the guys going out this afternoon, it’s going to be a lot tougher for them.

“Obviously I can only play with what’s in front of me and I’m happy with the job I managed to do on the end.”