Lawrie leads after seven-birdie charge

European Tour

Scotland’s Paul Lawrie has charged into the clubhouse lead midway through the first day of the Dubai World Championship.

Scotland’s Paul Lawrie has charged into the clubhouse lead midway through the first day of the Dubai World Championship at the multi-million dollar Jumeirah Estate’s Earth course.

Lawrie, the Open winner in 1999, posted a 7-under 65 built on a seven-birdie burst over 10 holes around the turn to set a challenging target to the later starters who would include the World’s No 1 and 2 ranked golfers, Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy, who were drawn to play at the back of the field for the first round in their head to head battle for the Race to Dubai crown.

Donald, already the top money winner on the US PGA Tour, is well set to win the same title in Europe this year and become the first man to do it in the selfsame season, but McIlroy has an outside chance of thwarting the Englishman’s bid if he can win this week’s European Tour finale in Dubai on the same Sunday when the normally rock solid Donald fails to finish among the top nine places.

A tall order, but that was of secondary importance to Lawrie coming up for mid-day on Thursday

The Scot who won for first time for nine years in Spain in March, was making his debut in a tournament reserved for the top 60 earners each season and began his run with 15 foot putts on the fifth and sixth.

The Scotsman then chipped close at the long seventh, made a 30 footer to complete an outward 32 and then collected more birdies at the tenth, 11th and 626 yard 14th.

With Donald and McIlroy not yet on the course, he was three clear of England’s Ross Fisher, at that stage, the Englishman having posted an eagle two on the 371 yard 15th.

“I gave myself an awful lot of chances – my iron play was fabulous,” said a beaming Lawrie, who spent all day on Monday working on his game after finishing the UBS Hong Kong Open at the weekend with a five over par 75.

“My flight got in at 4.30am, I went to the hotel for a shower, was on the range by seven and didn’t get to the hotel until four or five in the afternoon.

“Sometimes you need a day like that. My boys are 16 and 12 now and I don’t want them to see Dad being a poor player.

“I want to be in the top 50 in the world.” He is currently 93rd.

The 58-strong field – Justin Rose and Fredrik Jacobson are not playing – was further reduced to 57 when Korean Y E Yang pulled out after four holes with a neck injury on Thursday.

Dane Thomas Björn has the same problem, but decided to give it a go and parred the first.

When Donald and McIlroy did finally get away at the back of the field, the Englishman began in a less inspired way than he had hoped for – and this in a start that was the very opposite for his 22-year-old Northern Irish rival.

McIlroy, the current US Open Champion, hit his approach at the first to three feet and birdied the hole, whereas Donald pushed his drive in amongst the bushes and, although lucky to be able to advance it without taking a penalty drop, was unable to save his par, missing from five feet, and immediately falling two shots behind McIlroy.

By then Spaniard Alvaro Quiros had joined Fisher in second place, three behind Lawrie, with four birdies on his first eight holes.

There was more drama for the field’s stellar twosome on the long second when McIlroy hit a wild second into the trees and the ball could not be found in the permitted five minutes.

He had to go back down the fairway, found sand with his fourth shot and by failing to get up and down, had to pencil an ugly double bogey seven on to his card.

Donald, in stark contrast in the meantime, pitched to three feet and birdied the hole to return to level par and go one better than McIlroy.

And the fight was on,

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