Willett closes gap on leaders in Abu Dhabi

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Sheffield’s Danny Willett moved into contention at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship as Sergio Garcia was left “disgusted” at being suspected of cheating.

Willett carded seven birdies and an eagle to head into the weekend on eight under par and just a shot shy of joint leaders Craig Lee of Scotland and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello.

Willett was five over par after 10 holes on Thursday, but played the remaining eight in four under and is a total of 13 under for his last 26 holes.

“To be honest I’ve not done a massive amount different,” said the 26-year-old Yorkshireman, who is chasing his second win on the European Tour.

“If you miss a fairway by two or three yards and get a bad lie you’ve got no way to get to some of these greens.

“Today I played nice, hit it a little closer and hit a few more fairways and rolled a few putts in. I holed a wedge from 50 yards on eight (for eagle) which helps and the last 20-odd holes have been pretty good.”

His round was overshadowed by the Garcia development, with the Spaniard suspected of cheating after video footage emerged of a possible rules violation during his opening round.

Garcia was seen tapping down something on the line of his putt on the 18th green, which would have been in breach of the rules if it was a spike mark.

However, the world No 10 explained that it was in fact a pitch mark and European Tour chief referee John Paramor ruled Garcia was in the clear when the pair revisited the 18th green on Friday morning.

“I talked to John and I said I’m pretty sure that it was a pitchmark that I repaired,” said Garcia, after a second round of 68 saw him make the halfway cut of level par.

“I think the confusion was that I repaired it and then Martin (Kaymer) was going to putt, so I backed away to let him putt. And then what you can see in the video is him putting, hitting it to tap it in and I’m tapping the pitchmark down.

“I think that’s where everybody got confused.

“It does feel quite bad to be related to that word, though, to the word cheating, when you have no proof and when I’ve never, ever cheated in my whole life.

“And I’ve given myself plenty of penalty strokes when nobody saw it and I did.”

Coincidentally, Yorkshire’s Simon Dyson was in action in Abu Dhabi for the first time since being handed a suspended two-month ban from the European Tour for tapping down a spike mark during the BMW Masters in October.

The Malton professional missed the cut by two shots after successive rounds of 73, as did Harrogate’s John Parry, who missed out by a shot despite a three-under-par 69.