Hero Dubai Desert Classic: Rory McIlroy returns to finish opening round with a flourish

A birdie on the 7th was followed by an eagle on the 8th at the Majlis Course as world No 1 cards a 66 round for 6-under par and a share of the lead

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Some were left questioning why Rory Mcllroy had left himself a four-foot putt to think about overnight, after the airhorn blew at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday evening.

His playing partner, Ryan Fox, had tapped his in from similar range after the horn had signalled bad light and stopped play. Others on the course opted to finish up holes from far greater distances than McIlroy had left.

The world No 1 gave an emphatic answer with an extraordinary finish to his opening round on the start of another weather-affected day at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

Having marched out to finish up at the 7th green, two hours after they initially had been scheduled to, the Northern Irishman promptly tapped in for a birdie that took him to 3-under for the tournament.

It was the first of just six shots in took him to finish his round. Playing two par-4s which rank among the hardest holes on the Majlis Course, McIlroy used just five shots to get home.

He drove into the wasteland on the right-hand side of the fairway at the 8th. Remarkably, he holed his approach for a rare eagle.

“I wouldn't say I'm the best fairway bunker player in the world,” he said.

“The desert is a little nicer, it's a little more packed down, so you get some better lies. All I was thinking about was catching it clean.

“My tendency out of those lies is to hit it a little bit heavy. As soon as I struck it, I knew it came out really nicely and it was right down the pin.

“Anything inside of 20 feet, I would have been happy with, so that was certainly a bonus.”

Buoyed by that unexpected bonus, he played the 9th in fine style, landing his tee shot in the centre of the fairway.

He fired his approach to four-and-half foot and, with Patrick Reed in sight, walking up the neighbouring 18th, promptly rolled in the putt. It meant he signed for a 66, and, at 6-under, had a share of the lead.

At the point at which McIlroy finished, his co-leader was Thomas Pieters. However, the Belgian bogeyed the final hole of his opening round.

Almost simultaneously, Reed was making eagle at 18 - meaning he joined McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard.

Hero Dubai Desert Classic Day 1

Updated: January 27, 2023, 9:39 AM