DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Rory McIlroy upstaged the world’s top three golfers with a 7-under 65 Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Dubai Desert Classic, four shots better than No. 1 Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer and six ahead of an inconsistent Tiger Woods.
McIlroy, whose only European Tour win came in Dubai two years ago, had eight birdies to go with one bogey at the Emirates Golf Club. The seventh-ranked McIlroy took the early lead and held it. Sergio Garcia (67) and Thomas Aiken (67) trailed by two shots in windy conditions.
“I really had a lot of iron shots and got away with a couple of drives that I was quite fortunate to make birdies from,” the 21-year-old McIlroy said. “I had a putt for a 64 on the last that didn’t quite go in. But I’ll take 65 in these conditions any day.”
Woods shot a 71 and had problems early in the day, twice going to 2 over. But he eagled the 18th hole after hitting a 3-wood about 250 yards to the green.
“I struggled today with ball flight,” he said. “My trajectory wasn’t what I wanted on a lot of shots, and consequently, I could never get a ball pin high especially when the wind is blowing this hard.”
Woods had trouble and flashes of brilliance during his round. The troubles were obvious by his body language — he swore after an approach shot drifted left and slammed a club into the ground on wayward shot that led to his double bogey on the 12th hole.
He let out a sigh when a birdie putt came up short on the 13th. He badly missed an 80-yard chip on the 17th that ended up in the back of the green, leaving him with a 45-foot birdie putt.
“That was awful. Awful,” he said of the chip. “It’s something that I’m still working on technique, and unfortunately, sometimes I think about technique instead of feel.”