Collin Morikawa 'not thrilled' but hard yards pay off at Dubai Desert Classic

World No 2 shoots 4-under 68 on opening day at Emirates Golf Club, while McIlroy cards a 71

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At one point on the embryonic leaderboard at the Dubai Desert Classic, Collin Morikawa had surged way out in front, at 7-under par.

The world No 2, playing alongside two-time winner Rory McIlroy and Austria's Bernd Wiesberger, birdied seven of his first 11 holes around the Majlis Course, living up to his billing but also making a mockery of the fact that, earlier this week, he said his game needed serious work.

Morikawa, the current Race to Dubai champion, had finished tied-62nd on debut last week in Abu Dhabi — he just about made the cut — then hotfooted it to Dubai to iron out the kinks.

And although three bogeys in his closing four holes on Thursday stunted slightly the momentum, it was clear the hard yards on the range had paid off.

It was a disappointing finish,” Morikawa said after carding a 4-under 68. “But I've been working Monday through Wednesday, even into yesterday late after the Pro-Am trying to figure things out. When you are thinking about so much, you always have to remember to go play golf.

“I'm happy with 4-under. Not thrilled, but to see just some things that I've been working on just show up on the course was really nice.”

Admittedly, Morikawa sits only one shot back from 2017 champion Sergio Garcia and Pablo Larrazabal. The Spaniards combine as the morning leaders after matching 67s.

Asked what he had been honing in the build-up to his opening round, Morikawa said: “Everything. Literally once I tee the ball to once I take the ball out of the cup, I've been thinking about everything, trying to figure out what to do.

“And sometimes that's all you have and you've got to play with it, and that's what I'm doing. I'm trying to not worry about too much and just show up on the golf course, play golf, and just know what my miss is going to be. I think that's the biggest thing.”

McIlroy would have departed Emirates Golf Club feeling he had more work to do. Champion in 2009 and 2015, the four-time major winner climbed to 3-under through five on Thursday to take his place at the summit. However, his approach to 18 — his 9th — found the water, and led to a bogey, with the birdie at the next cancelled out by two more dropped shots coming home. As such, McIlroy signed for a 1-under 71.

Updated: January 27, 2022, 11:23 AM