World No. 1 Brooks Koepka carded a bogey-free 66 to sit tied for third, two shots behind leaders South African Shaun Norris and Italian Renato Paratore after the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship.
American Koepka started well in his competitive return after three months out with a knee injury, making two birdies in the first three holes. The four-time major winner went to card a further four birdies without loss.
Koepka was replaced by Rickie Fowler when he missed the U.S. victory at the Presidents Cup last month due to the knee issue that he originally addressed with stem cell treatment.
Leaders Paratore and Norris finished the first round with an 8-under 64.
Paratore, 23, is bidding for his second European Tour title after being beaten in a play-off at the Mauritius Open last month. The Italian carded nine birdies in the first round, dampened only by a single dropped shot on the par-3 seventh hole.
“Today the short game was really good and also the iron play,” Paratore said. “The last four holes I holed some good putts on 18 and 17 so I’m pretty happy with the short game.”
Norris, 37, also made bogey at the seventh before putting together a run of seven birdies on the final 11 holes to take a share of the lead after Day 1.
Norris, who lost his father in July, said he was enjoying his golf again with his brother carrying his bags.
“It’s been a rough year last year after losing my father… it feels like everything is just working at the moment,” Norris said. “We’re having a lot of fun out there, that’s the main thing, I’m happy with what’s happening.”
Australian Jason Scrivener tied for third place alongside Koepka after carding a 6-under 66.
Information from Reuters contributed to this report.