DeChambeau leads in Abu Dhabi

The USA team showcased their speed credentials to finish just seconds ahead of their European counterparts in what could be one of the quickest holes to be completed in years.

What did you make of the referee's decision to hand Jordan Spieth a warning during the first round in Abu Dhabi?

Since McIlroy last played competitively, in winning the World Tour Championship to clinch the European Tour's Race to Dubai, Spieth has competed in Australia, the Bahamas and Hawaii. Having rested since his win at the DP World Tour Championship, McIlroy will kick off what should be yet another strong season. "It's like playing with [Jason] Day or Dustin [Johnson]; they're in a different league".

The two players have been the two dominant players in recent years and have both won two majors in the past two years.

Spieth's accomplishments over the last twelve-or-so months are still fresh in the collective memory.

Given all of that, it's easy to forget about McIlroy's greatness in 2014. But we were not delaying anyone behind us and keeping well up with the group in front, so I don't see the need to say anything.

"There's been times where it's taken me at least four or five days to find the middle of the clubface, and there's been times where it's taken me a couple of hours and I'm right back into it", McIlroy said.

In preparation for their first big showdown of 2016, let's go over some benchmarks to which we can compare Spieth and McIlroy.

Stenson had missed the cut on three of his last four appearances in Abu Dhabi, but a hat-trick of birdies from the second took the Ryder Cup star to six under par and into a share of the lead with Bland. It'll be interesting to see if Spieth can further close the gap in 2016.

"So in my mind, a major will always be more important".

"You've got a couple of other people out there like Einstein or George Washington and they just stood out and capitalised on their differences and showed the world a little different side". In fact, he has more wins at 22-and-a-half than Tiger Woods did at the same age. Yes, if Spieth had been holding up the whole course, but that clearly wasn't the case. Not that McIlroy has been slouching-the Northern Irishman went 11-for-20 in 2015, a positively outstanding rate.

"My expectations were not very high but it was a great start", the 39-year-old said. Unless one has a down-year, expect them to be pretty even when it comes to this criterion.

"We believe this measure will help keep groups in position on the golf course and, in doing that, shave up to 15 minutes per group per round".

At one point, Spieth nearly ran over McIlroy. "I would have gone back".

Jordan Spieth became a victim of the European Tour's new policy on slow play when he was told by rules officials late in his round at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Thursday that he had taken too long on a putting green.

Syria opposition mulls downsized negotiation team for Geneva
Officials have said the talks would run over six months, with the first round expected to last between two and three weeks. One of the main reasons: the West's refusal to acknowledge the opposition's "red line" where Assad is concerned, he says .