McIlroy puts down the marker in Dubai

Rory McIlroy produced some scintillating golf in the Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday to take the early clubhouse lead.

Having struggled for form for most of the 2013 campaign, the man from Northern Ireland has in recent months found his rhythm again and it was no different in the United Arab Emirates.

Partnering world number one Tiger Woods, McIlroy carded a flawless nine-under-par 63 to take a three-shot lead over defending champion Stephen Gallagher from Scotland, Frenchman Julien Quesne and South African Richard Sterne, at the $2.5 million European Tour event.

Starting on the back nine, the two-time major winner made three birdies in a row from the 12th and then went birdie, par, birdie shortly before the turn.

He was also hot on the front nine as he produced a birdie on the second hole and followed it up with a 10-foot putt for eagle on the third. Another birdie on the seventh helped him to stretch his lead.

“Today was another step up from Abu Dhabi as I controlled my irons better,” McIlroy said. “You can see how well I am driving it that I am leaving myself a lot of wedges into the green, so that’s going to help.”

Woods, playing with McIlroy and Gallagher in the opening two rounds, finds himself five shots off the pace after carding a flawless four-under-par 68.