Andy Sullivan shot a stunning 11 under par round of 61 to set a new Fire Course record at Jumeirah Golf Estates and take a two shot lead into round two of the inaugural Golf in Dubai Championship presented by DP World.
The Englishman recorded 11 birdies and flirted with just the second 59 in European Tour history, after Oli Fisher at the 2018 Portugal Masters, before parring his last two holes in a brilliant bogey free opening round.
“I changed my putting routine with Mike yesterday and it’s helped me trust my instincts more instead of second guessing myself which really helped. The putter was extremely hot today,” Sullivan reflected.
“Covid really changed everything for me. I refocused and started enjoying it again. I’ve started to play a lot better. Going out there and enjoying it I know I’m giving myself the best chance to shoot a low score. Coming back to Jumeirah, I’ve always played pretty tidy here on the other course. It’s nice to get off to a flier on this one.”
Sullivan also set the course record en route to his fourth European Tour title at the 2020 English Championship in August and he now tops a tightly packed leaderboard, with fellow countrymen Matt Wallace and Ross Fisher and Frenchman Antoine Rozner his closest challengers on nine-under par.
“It’s funny,” Sullivan added, “I played the front nine yesterday and I played the back nine a year ago when we came over to warm up, you do all this prep on these courses and try and work out where to hit it. This week I turned up and clattered it down and found myself being ridiculous under par through seven or eight holes on my front nine. You think ‘here we go’.”
Fisher meanwhile was delighted to produce on Tour having seen signs of progress in recent weeks: “I feel like it’s been there, but I just haven’t been able to find it for some reason,” he said. “I feel like I’ve hit the ball really well for a long time, worked hard at short game, worked hard at putting and it just, for some reason, hasn’t clicked for four rounds. I’ve had the odd round here and there, but it’s not through the want of trying.
“I was disappointed after Cyprus, I felt like I played really well and to miss out on both weeks was really disappointing. I had three weeks off to reflect and then came here with the bit between my teeth knowing I needed a solid performance here to consolidate and get into next week. To go out there and produce that today, I’m obviously delighted.”
Scottish duo Craig Howie and Marc Warren and Swede Oscar Lengden are in a tie for fifth at eight under par, with Italian pair Lorenzo Scalise and Francesco Laporta, Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg and Spaniard Pep Angles one shot further back. Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney returned a one-under par round of 71 to share 67th overnight while Gavin Moynihan’s run of miss cuts looks likely to be extended after a disappointing 77 on Wednesday.
Full scoring HERE