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Published: 14:29 | 21/1/16

Spieth praises McIlroy "masterclass"

Irishman two off pace in Abu Dhabi

Jordan Spieth has praised Rory McIlroy's "masterclass" performance after the the world number three shot an opening round 66 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy sits two shots behind leader Bryson DeChambeau, who carded seven birdies and an eagle in an impressive 64, and one behind Henrik Stenson in what was his first appearance since winning the DP World Tour Championship in November.

"It was a masterclass, the Rory that I have seen win major championships," the reigning Masters and US Open champion said after being drawn with the Irishman and fellow American Rickie Fowler.

"It was very impressive today and minus one or two short putts, which is mainly just rust, it felt like he was on his A game."

McIlroy was also pleased with his performance, saying: "It was a great way to start the year.

"I felt in practice last week I was swinging well and I came back mentally fresh and excited to play again. I could not be happier.

"I drove the ball well and that's one of the secrets around this course because if you hit it into the rough, it's difficult just to reach the green. I missed a few putts but holed a few I probably shouldn't have so it all evens out."

Meanwhile, DeChambeau, who became just the fifth player after Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore to win the NCAA and US Amateur titles in the same season last year, was delighted with his first round.

"It was quite incredible," he said. "I had no expectations and was just able to freewheel a little bit and that allows me to do my best."but has also made headlines for his unique approach to the game.

The 22-year-old, who describes himself as a "golf scientist", has made headlines for his unique approach to the game.

He has modified his irons so that they are all the length of a seven iron and uses water and Epsom salts to establish which of his golf balls are slightly flawed.

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