The only trouble Rory McIlroy experienced on a day he shot his lowest round in three years was finding the way out of the Emirates Club car park.
Leaving with his fiancee Caroline Wozniacki in his BMW X6, McIlroy could relax after an impressive nine under par 63 on the opening day of the 25th anniversary Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
McIlroy whipped up his own version of a desert storm with an eagle and seven birdies to finish two shots clear of Italy’s Edoardo Molinari (65) and three ahead of five players, including countryman Damien McGrane.
Tiger Woods, who played with McIlroy, struggled off the tee but out-putted his foe with just 25 putts.
However McIlroy’s effort equalled his lowest European Tour round ever and a best since shooting 63 on at the 2010 British Open and UBS Hong Kong Open.
Also it is just one shot shy of McIlroy’s lowest pro career round of a storming final day 62 to win the 2010 Quail Hollow Championship.
Since defeating Masters-winning hero Adam Scott at last month’s Australian Open in Sydney, McIlroy continues edging closer to the form that earned him two Major titles.
“This round is right up there as my best round since beating ‘Scotty’ last year in Sydney and the 64 I had at the Deutsche Bank, and it’s just the way I controlled my ball and the way I played,” he said.
“It also is definitely up there in terms of golf courses I’m comfortable on. The Old Course at St Andrews is another one because I feel like I’m at home and I feel like I can shoot good scores there.
“I wanted to shoot 62 today because I shot 62 in a casual round of golf at The Els Club, so I wanted to try and shoot two 62s in one week, but it wasn’t quite possible and I came up one short.”
McGrane was three under par after five holes and after dropping a shot at eight, he birdied nine before landing a 268-yard 5-wood second shot to 15 feet at the 10th and holed the eagle putt.
He then missed a seven-footer for birdie at 17 but as he said himself: “You can’t hole them all. If you did, you’d be Rory McIlroy.”
McGrane’s 66 is his best in 16 rounds of the 2013/14 wraparound schedule and his lowest since a 65 on day two of last October’s Alfred Dunhill Links.
“I played nicely, good and steady from start to finish. I liked it,” he said.
Shane Lowry is hopeful of breaking a run of outs in the two prior Desert Swing events as he shot a two-under- par 70.
“That’s more like it,” said Lowry. “I said at the start of the week I needed not to push things too quickly and that was my attitude today.”
Peter Lawrie continued to struggle for pars in his opening 10 holes before moving to one under par at 11. However he double-bogeyed his 14th, bogeyed the next and also doubled 17 in a round of 76.
Woods impressed by Rory
By Bernie McGuire
Tiger Woods was again at his post-round best despite a frustrating four under par 68 on the opening day of the 25th anniversary Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Out on the course the 14-time Major winner could manage to hit just seven of the 14 fairways on the Majlis course.
However he did produce a superb scrambling display, and then when on the greens, needed just 25 putts — three fewer than Rory McIlroy who leads by two shots on nine under par.
Just over a year ago McIlroy also played alongside Woods but had left new equipment sponsors, Nike as crimson-faced as his then new Nike Covert driver, crashing out in nearby Abu Dhabi with a pair of 75s.
In stark contrast McIlroy’s first round this new season in Woods’ company is already 14 shots fewer.
And no sooner had Woods handed in his score card and he was asked his opinion of McIlroy’s desert storming display.
“He’s playing a lot better, a lot better,” said Woods.
“I think he has found the right combo with the ball and the driver. He had been struggling with that last year but when you find a driver and ball combo that goes forever you also need to shape it.
“Now, I can see him hitting it both ways and he’s hitting the shots and that is one of the big reasons he started playing well at the end of the year.”
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