Jordan Smith, Adrian Otaegui take surprise early lead at DP World Tour Championship in Dubai

Jordan Smith of England plays his third shot from a bunker on the 18th hole during day one of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 15, 2018 in Dubai. (Getty Images/Andrew Redington)
Updated 15 November 2018
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Jordan Smith, Adrian Otaegui take surprise early lead at DP World Tour Championship in Dubai

DUBAI: Jordan Smith and Adrian Otaegui shared the lead after day one of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai as Francesco Molinari tightened his grip on the European Tour’s season-long crown.
England’s Jordan Smith and Spain’s Adrian Otaegui have a share of the lead going into Friday’s second round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, as Francesco Molinari moved closer to sealing the Race to Dubai crown.
Smith and Otaegui both shot rounds of 66 at Jumeirah Golf Estates to sit six-under par, one shot clear of the defending champion Jon Rahm and former Masters champion Danny Willett.
Italian Molinari knows a tie for fifth place with one other will secure him the European Tour’s season-ending title, but he looks set to go one better as he was just a shot further back after a 68 on the Earth Course.
Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood needs to win the tournament to have any chance of denying Molinari, and the Englishman was three shots off the lead after a 69.
“I hit a lot of good shots on that front nine,” early leader Smith said. “I just couldn’t quite find the hole. I hit a lot of good putts, all burning the edge and then something clicked on that back nine and they started going in. I think you can just take a lot of confidence into the next few days.”
Otaegui, who remained bogey-free in his first round, has two wins on the European Tour but neither of them have come in 72-hole stroke play.
“I played really well,” he said. “I was solid from tee-to-green. I left myself lots of birdie chances. I thought I putted well. Six birdies, no bogeys, it’s always a very good start. It’s more important to have a good finish, as well.”
Otaegui made a birdie-birdie start and then added another on the par-five seventh to turn in 33. Gains on the tenth and 14th had him within one and a stunning third into the last set up a closing birdie.
Elsewhere, Rory McIlroy’s announcement that he would play only two European Tour events in 2019 was the main talking point on Thursday.
Former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley has criticizedthe Northern Irishman for what he calls a “baffling” decision.
“It’s very disappointing,” McGinley said. “I’ve been racking my brains wondering how that can be.
“Obviously Rory sees it in other ways and has got his own rationale for that, although I’m finding it hard to understand,” added McGinley.
World No. 7 McIlroy has to play four European Tour tournaments, apart from the majors and World Golf Championship events, in order to retain Tour membership.
So far, McIlroy has only two tournaments on his schedule and he may miss the Irish Open, which he has hosted for the last four years.


Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 19 February 2019
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Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”