Rory McIlroy made an early move for a fifth success this season in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, while good friend Shane Lowry finally looks set to secure that much sought after top-50 World Ranking.
McIlroy ended a six-week competitive absence with a sizzling first round of six under par 66 to join Lowry in an all-Ireland share of the lead at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
The world No. 1, sporting blisters on his hands from nearly two weeks practice at the nearby Els Club, stamped his enormous class and domination of the Greg Norman designed Earth Course that has McIlroy a remarkable 80-under par in 21 rounds of the Tour’s curtain closing event.
“I’ve always said in golf when it’s like this, you always wonder how have you ever played so badly,” he smiled. “Yes, I’m very comfortable with my game at the minute and, as I said the other day, I’m on a really good path, and I know what I need to do to make my golf game work and that’s what I’m working on at the minute.”
Lowry rebounded in superb manner following last Sunday’s Turkish Airlines Open demise, needing just 25 putts.
Four days ago Lowry was enjoying a seven-way share of the lead after four holes in Belek but was quickly despatched to the pack after dropping six shots over the next four holes and ended up sharing 25th place.
But with long-time coach Neil Manchin present in Dubai, Lowry quickly put that disappointment aside as he strives to win on a course he knows like the back of his hand.
“All Sunday night on the flight down here from Turkey I was thinking about it, and it’s one of those things where I gave myself a chance to win last week, so if I can give myself a chance to win again this week, maybe I’ll do it,” he said.
“I’ve been thinking and being asked about the top-50 ranking for most of the year and having Neil here this week has helped because we’ve sat down and talked about it.
“So I’ve put that aside for this week because there’s a lot at stake this week. First and foremost, I’ve got to go out tomorrow and play decent golf and just keep doing what I’ve been doing.
“And I’ve got a good relationship on this golf course because in my first year here I shared eighth place. I’ve also played over here any time I come to Dubai, especially when I am here in January practising. So I know the course quite well, and also I only played nine holes this week before I went out there today.”
In contrast, Graeme McDowell’s relationship with the course remains lukewarm after recording a level par 72 that included four birdies and just as many bogeys.
And Michael Hoey surely must be cursed after preparing so well for his final event in his sixth straight season but then picking up a dose of food poisoning on the eve of the tournament and shooting a one over par 73.
“I got the most out of my round as I just hit it shocking,” he said. “I’ve just been unfortunate again as I felt really good yesterday and I’ve eaten something at lunch on Wednesday and it’s just wiped me out.
“I’ve not had food poisoning and it’s just that I feel so tired with lethargic swings. I was hitting the ball so well coming into this week with my legs feeling very strong but I’m going back to my hotel now and going to my bed.”
However, Hoey tried to remain in good spirits as his wife, Bev, is due to give birth on Monday to the couple’s first child.
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