(Reuters) - Belgian Thomas Pieters carded a five-under-par 67 in difficult conditions to open up a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday.
Narrowed fairways and extremely fast greens combined with blustery conditions meant only 29 players finished under par at Emirates Golf Club.
Starting on the back nine, Pieters dropped three shots on his 10th and 11th holes but recovered with three straight birdies to finish one-shot clear of American David Lipsky.
“I’ve been working on my putting real hard and I just hope to see some progress,” he said.
“There was nothing easy about today, but I found 14 greens, which is always nice in these kind of conditions.
“You don’t know what to expect (at the start of the season), even though you’ve put the work in. That competitive mind-set sometimes takes a while to kick in. But today was, I think, one of my better rounds of the year.”
Early starter Lipsky mixed five birdies with a sole bogey, while defending champion Bryson DeChambeau was in a group at two-under.
After lifting his 25th European Tour title in Abu Dhabi last weekend, England’s Lee Westwood had a day to forget as he finished with a disappointing round of 78.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis