Rory McIlroy fights back to chase Kaymer in Abu Dhabi
Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler could not be separated on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship but both were outshone by Martin Kaymer.
McIlroy and Fowler's rivalry escalated last year so it was fitting that they were paired together yesterday, and although the American was in the ascendancy for most of the day, the world number one rallied with birdies at five of his final seven holes.
They both carded respectable five-under 67s to sit in a tie for eighth, although their efforts were put in the shade by three-time champion Kaymer, who tops the leaderboard three shots better off.
McIlroy, playing in his first event of the year, started with a birdie at the 10th, but he struggled with his driver on the front nine and dropped back to level par on the 17th just as Fowler went to two under.
Fowler was at one stage in a share of the lead on six under but by then McIlroy, spurred on by his playing partner, was on the charge.
Fowler then made his only bogey on the last to drop back to five under, alongside McIlroy, who admitted his game was raised by his 26-year-old friend.
"I was just trying to keep up with this guy," he told the European Tour's official website as he stood alongside Fowler.
"He was kicking me on, for sure. I didn't want to let him get too far ahead of me.
"I just wanted to try to stay as close to him as possible and thankfully I was able to do that."
"The result was good, 67 was pleasing. How I got there in the end wasn't quite as pleasing."