Dubai Desert Classic: Opening 63 leaves Rory McIlroy two clear of field
Last Updated: 30/01/14 3:41pm
Rory McIlroy in the Dubai Desert Classic.
Rory McIlroy lived up to his billing as pre-tournament favourite with a stunning opening round of 63 that put playing partner Tiger Woods in the shade at the Dubai Desert Classic.
McIlroy carded seven birdies and an eagle at Emirates Golf Club as he finished the day at nine-under, two clear of his closest challenger, Italy's Edoardo Molinari, and five ahead of world No 1 Woods.
The American - twice a winner of the event - completed his opening round with nine straight pars to end with four-under 68, two worse than the final member of the marquee group, defending champion Stephen Gallacher.
The Scot shared third place on six-under with South African Richard Sterne, France's Julien Quesne, Damien McGrane of Ireland and Englishman Matthew Baldwin.
But it was McIlroy who made the early headlines as he produced a flawless display to lay down an ominous marker for the rest of the field.
"I played really well from tee to green, drove the ball well again; I think I only missed a couple of fairways and only missed one green where I had to really get it up and down," stated McIlroy.
"I took advantage of how I am driving the ball and just need to do more of the same the next three days."
Starting at the tenth hole, McIlroy injected real impetus into his round with three straight birdies from the 12th before picking up further shots at 16 and 18 to reach the turn at five-under.
He continued to make inroads with a birdie at the second, before taking advantage of two superb strikes to roll home an eagle putt at the 568-yard par-five third hole.
First round leaderboard
(GB & Ire unless stated)
-9 R McIlroy
-7 E Molinari (Ita)
-6 M Baldwin
-6 S Gallacher
-6 D McGrane
-6 R Sterne (SA)
-6 J Quesne (Fra)
Click here for collated scores
His final birdie arrived at the par-three seventh hole and ensured he put clear daylight between himself and his pursuers.
Quesne had threatened to join McIlroy as he reached eight-under through 14 holes, but a double-bogey at the last ended those hopes and somewhat spoiled the Frenchman's card.
Baldwin also moved within range of the leader when a birdie at his 11th hole took him to seven-under, but the 27-year-old from Southport rather lost momentum from that point, leaving Molinari alone in second place.
Henrik Stenson endured a topsy-turvy day, fighting back from dropping three early shots to reach two-under after a total of five bogeys and seven birdies.
However, the Swede's playing partner Ernie Els struggled with his game and could do no better than a two-over 74 following three bogeys and a double.