European Tour

Sullivan leads in Abu Dhabi

Andy Sullivan (Gallo Images)
Andy Sullivan (Gallo Images)

Abu Dhabi - Andy Sullivan started and finished his second round with three straight birdies to take a two-shot lead in the weather-affected Abu Dhabi Championship on Friday, making another strong impression in front of European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke.

Sullivan, one of the stars of the European Tour in 2015 with three victories, won three points from three matches for Europe in its big win over Asia in the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia last week. Clarke also captained the Europeans for that event.

Sullivan and Clarke have played together for the first two days in Abu Dhabi, with the Englishman shooting two straight 5-under 67s to lead an all-star field.

They have been close friends since Sullivan turned professional in 2011 and the jokes have been flying between them this week.

"He has completely taken the mick out of me for two days and I have told him that if he keeps this up, a pick (for the Ryder Cup) is out of the question," Clarke said.

Sullivan, known for his big smile and easygoing attitude, has been giving it back.

"He's got 60 on his ball and, on the first tee, I said I didn't realize you put your age on the ball," Sullivan said, laughing. "I just try and have a bit of to-ing and fro-ing. It was good fun and kept it relaxed and enabled me to play some good golf."

Sullivan overtook overnight leader Bryson DeChambeau, the American amateur who shot an 8-under 64 in the first round.

DeChambeau was among the late starters Friday, as well as Rory McIlroy (66) and Jordan Spieth (68) - all of whom will not finish their rounds after fog delayed the start of play by nearly three hours Friday.

That didn't affect Sullivan, who birdied Nos. 10-12 to tie for the lead when he started his round. He later rolled in birdie putts from 6 feet on No 7, 12 feet on No 8 and 20 feet on No 9.

"I've used that momentum from last week (in the EurAsia Cup) and that was just a little taster of what the Ryder Cup would be like," said Sullivan, who won twice in South Africa as well as the Portugal Masters by nine shots last year. "That's going to be 10-fold. Last week gave me more desire to put my name in the mix.

"Darren knows what I can do so I don't think it was imperative (to play well here), but it bodes well when you do."

Joost Luiten of the Netherlands shot 68 and is three shots behind Sullivan.

Leaderboard:

134 - Andy Sullivan (ENG) 67-67

137 - Rafael Cabrera-Bello (ESP) 70-67, Joost Luiten (NED) 69-68

138 - Peter Hanson (SWE) 69-69

139 - Richie Ramsay (SCO) 73-66, David Horsey (ENG) 71-68, Ian Poulter (ENG) 70-69, Trevor Fisher Jr (RSA) 69-70, Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 68-71, Fabrizio Zannotti (PAR) 70-69, Matthew Baldwin (ENG) 69-70

140 - Johan Carlsson (SWE) 69-71, Niclas Fasth (SWE) 68-72, Branden Grace (RSA) 66-74

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