Darren Clarke will have to wait to make his 500th European Tour appearance after pulling out of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters through injury.
Clarke, who has lost more than three stone since October in a bid to recapture his best form, was due to play alongside defending champion Chris Wood and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez in the first two rounds.
However, the 45-year-old suffered a pulled muscle and was forced to withdraw, with Sweden’s Jens Dantorp – who earnt his card through the qualifying school last year – taking his place in the field.
Clarke won the Open Championship in 2011, but has failed to record a single top-10 finish on the European Tour since his triumph at Royal St George’s.
Play got under way shortly after 7am local time following a 30-minute fog delay and Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley was again making an excellent start.
McGinley, who was just one off the lead after the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last week before finishing 19th, is determined to keep his game sharp this year in order to see first hand some of his prospective team members for Gleneagles.
The Dubliner revealed last week that playing for money against the likes of Sam Torrance and former tennis star Tim Henman at Sunningdale was paying dividends and picked up two birdies in his first three holes after starting from the 10th.
At two under par, McGinley was two behind early pacesetter Matthew Baldwin, who had covered the front nine in 32, with Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher among those a shot behind on three under.
US PGA champion Jason Dufner, who was joint ninth here 12 months ago, was one under par after five holes.
McGinley remained two under par after 10 holes - scrambling a par on the first after pitching over the green with his third shot - and was now four adrift of new leader Dawie van der Walt.
Van der Walt, who won the Nelson Mandela Championship in his native South Africa in December, had covered the back nine in 34 before following an eagle on the first with birdies on the second and third.
At six under par he led by one from in-form duo Cabrera-Bello and Gaganjeet Bhullar, who finished fourth and 10th respectively in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.