McIlroy sizzles in Dubai; Woods among chasing pack

Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:04am EST
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By Matt Smith

DUBAI (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy hit a sizzling nine-under 63 to lead the first round of the $2.5 million Dubai Desert Classic by two strokes on Thursday, bolstering his hopes of claiming a first European tour win since 2012.

Playing the back nine holes first, the Northern Irishman was unperturbed by a 0405 GMT (12:05 ET) tee-off time, reaching the turn at five-under after sinking a quintet of birdies from the 12th to the 18th.

He rattled in an eagle at the par-five third hole with a 25-foot putt and picked up two further shots in a blemish-free round on the Majlis course.

Playing partner Tiger Woods kept pace initially to be four-under after nine holes, but then sunk nine successive pars to finish on 68, five behind his rival.

Italy's Edoardo Molinari carded 65 to be two shots off the pace, with defending champion Stephen Gallacher among five players to shoot 66.

"Sometimes you have an early start, it maybe takes you a few holes to get going," McIlroy told reporters, when asked about his scintillating beginning.

"But whenever you have people on the tee box and cameras clicking, it sort of makes you more alert at that time of the morning when sometimes you're half asleep."

It could have been even better for the 24-year-old, who missed a six-foot putt on the opening hole and lipped out another birdie attempt on the fifth hole. Had those gone he could have equaled the course record of 61.   Continued...

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland takes a shot on the fairway of the 2nd hole during the first round of the 2014 Omega Dubai Desert Classic in Dubai January 30, 2014. REUTERS/Caren Firouz