Rusty? Injured? Just lost to a 15-year-old in a practice game? None of that mattered to Brooks Koepka on day one of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as the World No.1 posted a flawless round of 6-under 66 to move into a tie for second.
Koepka, 29, ended 2019 as statistically the best player in the world but his game was dealt a huge blow when he suffered a knee injury to end his season. It was also enough to see him have to withdraw from Tiger Woods' United States Pesidents Cup side.
Competing in his first tournament in 89 days, the four-time major champion reminded everyone of his presence in the game with a stunning first round in the European Tour's first Rolex Series event of 2020.
Koepka birdied his opening hole at the 10th, and then made five birdies in the space of seven holes around the turn to reach 6-under par.
The highlight of the day for Koepka came with a stunning chip-in from the back of the par-4 17th...
"I've chipped in, yeah, a couple of times."#ADGolfChamps #RolexSeries https://t.co/4crSeZeF1J pic.twitter.com/cT0MsX6KPQ— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 16, 2020
"It feels good to be back," said Koepka.
"I've missed the competition, and I played really solid today. I missed a few putts early, but drove it really well, controlled my ball flight and controlled my distances really well, and that's what you've got to do out here.
"My short game was really good today. I obviously didn't expect to hole out at 17 but that was nice. The strike has felt good, I've been working hard on my short game with my coach."
Brooks is back.#ADGolfChamps #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/Oy91n367yI— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 16, 2020
Koepka was also spotted using a new driver for 2020, replacing his former TaylorMade M5 driver with the brand's new SIM driver.
"It works," chuckled Koepka. "We had a long session on Tuesday, and we couldn't get it quite right, but then we got it dialled in and it feels great."
The big-hitting American trails Italy's Renato Paratore, who raced to the front with nine birdies and a bogey for a round of 8-under 64, highlighted by four straight birdies to close out his day.
Sergio Garcia also got off to a hot start in his first event as a free equipment agent having left Callaway following a two-year partnership.