The European Tour’s £6m season-ending event began on time despite a torrential overnight storm in Dubai today – but it was over for Ireland’s Shane Lowry.
In a move that looked like crushing his hopes of reaching the world’s top 50 by the end of the year and earning a spot in next April’s US Masters – he has no other starts planned – the Portugal Masters champion withdrew from the DP World Tour Championship after falling ill with a virus.
Lowry, currently 57th in the ranking, missed Tuesday’s pro-am and then went to hospital, where he was placed on a drip because of his dehydration.
By pulling out of the event, the field – meant to be the leading 60 money-winners on the European circuit this year – was reduced to only 56. Thomas Bjorn and Retief Goosen were not playing because of injuries and Ross Fisher has decided to focus instead on next week’s PGA Tour qualifying school in California.
The downpour deposited 20mm of rain on the course in two hours, but England’s Richard Finch kicked the event off at the scheduled 7.52am. At 60th on the money list the Yorkshire golfer had squeezed in by less than £8,000 over Australian Brett Rumford, but he managed only a front nine 39.
The scoring was better elsewhere, though, and after two hours’ play Scot Marc Warren led after four birdies in his first six holes.
It was only by a stroke. Compatriots Scott Jamieson and David Drysdale had reached three under – Jamieson eagled the long second – and Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey was on the same mark.
In keeping with tradition the players were sent out in reverse order, meaning Order of Merit winner Rory McIlroy was scheduled to tee off last at 12.40pm with Swede Peter Hanson.
Warren added a fifth birdie at the 461-yard eighth and turned in 31 to lead Jamieson, Drysdale, Hoey and also Dubliner Peter Lawrie by two.
Swede Henrik Stenson, winner of the South African Open on Sunday, took six at the 583-yard second, but birdied the fourth and sixth – both par threes – to get to one under, while Sergio Garcia, who underwent eye surgery after the Ryder Cup to correct an astigmatism and is playing his first event since, opened with a bogey and remained one over after eight.
Warren reached seven under with two to play - even with a bogey at the short 13th.
Further birdies came on the 12th, long 14th, where he played a brilliant chip up a bank to five feet, and 486-yard 16th, while on the 15th he hooked an iron off the tee behind a tree, chipped out and then played his approach to three feet to save par.
Playing partner Lawrie was two behind in second, while Jamieson’s 68 put him in a tie for third with yet another Scot, Stephen Gallacher, and Dane Anders Hansen.
Garcia was next-to-last by then on three over, bogeying again at the ninth and 12th.