By Bernie McGuire in Yas Links, Abu Dhabi.
Among all those observed on the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship practice range was the delight in seeing Scot Calum Hill.
Golf fans will recall Hill was bitten by mosquitoes while contesting the 2021 late season Portugal Masters, withdrawing after the first round with a 76.
A fortnight later, Hill teed-up in season-ending DP World Tour Championship but after one round spent walking for the most part noticeably uncomfortable, he signed his card and headed straight to the Tour’s medical unit where he was advised to seek immediate expert advice as to why the infected insect bites were draining his energy.
Season 2022 got underway and Hill seemed to feel good enough in March to travel to Qatar for the CB Qatar Masters but that also proved frustrating in having to withdraw from yet another DP World Tour event.
Arriving home, Hill underwent more treatment, more assessment, so much so he was then side-lined for a further seven months, returning in October to play three rounds in missing the cut on home soil at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
There surely must have been some trepidation a few weeks later when he headed back to the Algarve to tee-up in the 2022 edition of the Portugal Masters, no doubt with bitter and bizarre memories of the events a year earlier. He played just two rounds, missing the cut.
All the time between just three events in 2022, Hill was being attended to by specialists before being advised his continuing aches and pains were nerve-related issues.
It’s why it was good to see Hill here in Abu Dhabi and to be on hand when he signed for an opening round of a four-under 68 of the $US9m championship.
“It was nice and I felt more comfortable than I thought I would be and it’s just that the competitive juices are gone a little bit as it’s been so long since a year-and-a-half ago and what happened in Portugal,” Hill said.
“It’s meant that the lack of competition makes it tough and I noticed that when I went back to Portugal at the end of last year when I was last out here on Tour
“I did a lot of work this winter break including playing a lot of games in Phoenix, so I’ve got a lot of golf under my belt and the scoring has been a lot better. So, it’s a nice surprise to go out there today and feel so comfortable.”
However, Hill revealed he’s still not back to 100% fitness.
“The nerve-related issues that resulted from what happened in Portugal cause muscle spasms and cramping, and the muscles don’t relax, so it feels a bit uncomfortable,” he said.
“Though I’m working with the right people, doing the right things and I’ve been told it will be normal eventually (smiling). I was informed I would be okay in September and then I’d be okay by January though I’ve been assured it’s not forever.
“Saying that, I am planning to play these four events in succession, up to and including the Singapore Classic, but we’ll just see how I go after this week and next week’s Desert Classic.”
Looking back to 2021, the Gleneagles attached Hill produced some stunning results including 4th at the Hero Open and a week later on August 15 Hill capturing the Cazoo Classic, and he backed-up that result in his very next event with a share of seventh in the Omega European Masters.
That was a win either side of two other top-10s that surely must have had Hill thinking, could life not be brighter for the now 28-year old?
Sadly not and with Hill arriving in Abu Dhabi having played only seven rounds since October 2021.
If there is a golfing plus for Hill though, it is his sponsors have stood by him and he’s also playing under Category 4a DP World Tour medical exemption, so he has the full support of the Tour in teeing-up in 2023.
Unfortunately Hill could only add a second round 75 to his opening 68, leaving him outside the projected cut-line.
- Full Abu Dhabi scoring HERE