Rory McIlroy admitted he was surprised to find himself at the top of the leaderboard after he carded a blistering opening round of 62 at the inaugural Dubai Invitational.
McIlroy conceded he didn’t feel like he was in the groove starting his rounds but he settled into proceedings with birdies on 11 and 15 before three successive gains from 17 to the first where he rolled in putts of 8ft, 7ft and 22ft catapulted him into the lead as he became the first man to reach five-under-par.
The Holywood clubman continued to pepper flagsticks, draining birdie putts on the third, fourth, seventh and ninth, all within eight feet to soar to nine-under and establish a two-shot lead over Germany’s Yannik Paul.
“I didn’t expect that. It didn’t feel quite as good as that the first couple of days when I was here and hitting balls and playing the course. But it was nice to get a card in the hand again and sort of feel the competitive juices flowing,” explained McIlroy who was one of three players to sign for a bogey-free round.
“It was a really comfortable group. I really like playing with Ryan (Fox) and the two amateurs we had, Abdullah and Greg I know very, very well. So it was a very comfortable sort of pairing and round of golf out there. Yeah, surprised myself a little bit but hopefully more of the same over the next few days.”
The four-time major winner was pleased with how he navigated his way around the Dubai Creek golf course.
“I think around the creek you have to miss it in the right spots. There’s some water here and there. I think a did a good job today of managing my misses and missing on the right side, and when I did make a hit shot, I managed to take advantage of it.”
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Tom McKibbin began a new era with his Callaway clubs with an up and down opening round of 71 to leave him nine shots off the pace on level-par.
It was a one step forward, two steps back day for the Porsche European Open champion but he did manage to birdie the last.
Also among the chasing pack behind McIlroy are Thriston Lawrence (-6) and 2018 Ryder Cup player, Thorbjorn Olesen and Tommy Fleetwood (both -5).