McIlroy off to a dream start
Rory McIlroy has achieved the dream, flying start he was hoping for in Thursday’s 1st round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
Rory McIlroy has achieved the dream, flying start he was hoping for in Thursday’s first round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club.
The 21-year-old Northern Ireland star is looking to beat the World’s top three golfers this week and as one of this morning’s early starters, was hoping to have signalled his early intentions long before the most distinguished three-some in European Tour history had even teed off.
Well, he did just that.
At about the time the trio of big guns was teeing off with Westwood and Kaymer paring their first two holes and Woods bogeying the first and parring the second, McIlroy was charging into the early clubhouse lead with a sizzling 7-under 65.
This after firing four birdies on the back nine after starting on the 10th and then birdying his first three holes after the turn.
It was a suprise when his charge was stopped by a bogey on 16, but he cancelled it out immediately by recovering the shot with birdie at 17 before closing with a solid par.
“It was a great way to start the tournament,” he said. “I felt in control of my ball most of the day.
“Got away with a couple of tee shots on the 17th and on the second – apart from that, I played really well – really smart golf and took on the pins if I needed to and left ones alone that I didn’t need to go at. It was just a very solid round of golf.”
The desert storm blown up by McIlroy on the first 12 holes left the field choking in his wake, his nearest pursuers at that stage being Danny Willett, Sergio Garcia and Ricardo Gonzalez who were all at 4-under, Willett after 14 holes, Garcia after 11 and Gonzales after nine.
A shot further back on 3-under former Open champion Toddy Hamilton led a group on three-under that included Britons Simon Dyson and Stephen Gallacher.
Later Garcia was to finish with a 5-under 67 and get within two shots of McIlroy with Willett and Frenchman Jean-Baptiste both shooting 68s to be a further shot off the pace and one ahead of a group on three under led by American Todd Hamilton, the former Open Champion.
Nobody will be too surprised by McIlroy’s fast start who, from the word go, has been a bigger bookies favourite than Westwood.
Two years ago McIlroy had what surprisingly remains his only European Tour victory at this Emerites venue and last year he was the among the first-round leaders before slipping back to sixth.
Now the Northern Ireland youngster returns after finishes in his last five events in fifth, sixth, fifth, fourth and then second place to Kaymer in Abu Dhabi three weeks ago.
The 21-year-old finished his round just as Woods, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer were setting off and the American had fallen nine shots behind after just seven holes.
Woods, without a win since November 2009 and now down to third in the rankings, bogeyed the first and fourth, came back with a birdie, but then dumped his tee shot to the short seventh into the lake.
With another dropped shot there he turned in a two over 37 compared to the 34 of Kaymer and 33 of current World No 1 Westwood, who birdied the long third and then hit his approach to only two feet at the ninth.
Kaymer had come to that hole three under, but like defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez and Alvaro Quiros his second shot hit the hospitality units on the right and rebounded into the water left of the green.
By then 21-year-old McIlroy was already contemplating another trip to the nearby water park – and Sergio Garcia might have felt like joining him as his comeback continued with a fine 67 for second spot.
Garcia’s ninth place in Qatar last week was his best finish for almost a year, but he still needs first or second place on Sunday to climb into the game’s top 64 in time for the Accenture Match Play in Arizona later this month.
McIlroy had five successive birdies around the turn and was seven under with three to play, but three-putted the seventh before responding with yet another birdie.
The Northern Irishman, with a chance this week to move up from seventh in the world to a career-high fourth, said: “Today was good – I really hit a lot of good iron shots. I had a putt for another 64, but I will take 65 in those conditions every day.
“I was nervous teeing off and I want that every time I play.
“With the ‘Big Three’ paired together I’ve tried to go in under the radar.”
Shot of the day, though, was hit by David Howell on the 186-yard seventh.
The Englishman, whose 1999 victory in the event came at the Dubai Creek course, holed an ace to earn himself first-class tickets from the tournament’s airline sponsors.
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