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Three Share Lead in Abu Dhabi


Spain's Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Romain Wattel of France and England's Matthew Baldwin each carded 5-under 67s to tie for the lead in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. The $2.7 million European Tour event began Thursday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates.

Cabrera-Bello had six birdies and a bogey, Wattel five birdies and Baldwin seven birdies and pair of bogeys for a one-stroke lead over Paul McGinley, George Coetzee, Craig Lee, Joost Luiten, Marc Warren, Jose-Filipe Lima and Dawie Van Der Walt.

The top-ranked players in the field - No. 3 Henrik Stenson, No. 4 Phil Mickelson, seventh-ranked Rory McIlroy and No. 10 Sergio Garcia - had mixed days. Stenson shot 74, Mickelson a 73, McIlroy a 70 and Garcia a 76.

Starting play on the 10th hole, Mickelson recorded 17 straight pars before closing with a bogey on his par-4 final hole. "I can't recall the last time I had a round without a birdie,'' Mickelson said. "But didn't make a bogey there until the last.

"This first round, I was a little tentative, played a little cautious, didn't trust my swing too much," he added. "I haven't been out in competition for a while, but then it was good to get my feet wet."

McIlroy, coming off his first win in over a year at last month's Australian Open, was pleased with his outing. "I feel the benefit of ending last year well and then starting off this year with a lot of hard work, it's sort of showed off," said the 24-year-old Northern Irishman, played in the same threesome as Mickelson.

"Today was my first competitive round since the start of December, and I drove the ball as well as I have done in a long time."

Garcia said he hurt his shoulder while playing out of the course's thick rough during Wednesday's pro-am. "You just have to hit it so hard into the ground to get it out, and when you're not 100 percent it doesn't help at all," said the Spaniard. "I would say that it's dangerous and hopefully nobody else will get injured, because it could happen to several guys this week."

Defending champion Jamie Donaldson, the third member of the Mickelson-McIlroy pairing, opened with a 73 on what turned out to be a tough day for scoring.

The other two Americans in the field, Peter Uihlein and Brooks Koepka, carded 74 and 77, respectively.

For all the scores, visit http://www.europeantour.com/europeantour/season=2014/tournamentid=2014003/leaderboard/index.html.