Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald joked that he is trying to “inspire” potential team-mates after taking an early first-round lead at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Donald, 45, birdied his last four holes and made nine in total at Yas Links to card an opening eight-under-par 64.
“I’m trying to put an aim for the guys who are trying to make the team. If they can’t beat me, then what the hell are they doing?” said England’s Donald.
“Hopefully I’m inspiring them.”
England’s Donald holds a one-shot lead over Guido Migliozzi of Italy and Australia’s Jason Scrivener, with Ireland’s Seamus Power on 66, but play in the first round was not completed because of fading light.
Donald took over the Ryder Cup captaincy when Henrik Stenson was stripped of the role, after the Swede announced he was joining the LIV Golf series in 2022.
However, the Englishman minimised any suggestion he could become a playing captain at the event in Rome this autumn.
American seven-time major champion Arnold Palmer was the last man to do so in 1963.
“It would be tough to be a playing captain,” said Donald. “I’ve been vice-captain twice, there’s a lot going on. So, early days, it’s a great start to the week, nothing more.”
Stenson is making his first appearance on the DP World Tour since his involvement with the LIV series and carded a 68 on the opening day.
Asked whether he regretted his decision to join the Saudi-backed breakaway event, the 46-year-old said: “No, I made my decision and obviously Ryder Cup Europe made theirs.
“It’s not great but it is what it is, and [the] Ryder Cup has been a huge part of my career.
“I wish Luke all the best with the team and we’ll see where we all end up in the long run with this.”