DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Rafael Cabrera-Bello made nine birdies in his first 11 holes to finish at 9-under 63 Thursday for a two-shot lead after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
“I didn’t really get much going on the front nine,” McIlroy said. “And then I sort of got a few things going after that.”
Cabrera-Bello said he briefly thought about scoring 59, one shot better than his career-best 60 that helped him win the Austrian Open. But he ended the round with seven straight pars.
“It felt simple. I know it’s not and I know it’s really hard to repeat,” the 119th-ranked Cabrera-Bello said. “But it felt like everything was going nice and smooth today.”
Cabrera-Bello said his consistent short game helped put him in contention for a second European Tour win and first since 2009. The 27-year-old Spaniard chipped within 3 feet on his fourth hole for birdie, then sank a 20-foot birdie putt on his fifth and made a 15-foot putt on his eighth.
Cabrera-Bello said it’s too soon to start thinking about winning the tournament.
“I don’t think anyone who plays good in any tournament in the first round thinks about winning,” Cabrera-Bello said. “I’m sure that is one thing you shouldn’t do. … You only need to think about how many times the first-round leader ends up winning, which I don’t think is a very good percentage.”
McIlroy, who won the tournament in 2009 and finished second last month at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, started with six straight pars and a bogey. He sank clutch birdie putts on No. 9 and 11 and missed a hole-in-one on the par-3 15th by a foot.
“Once I made a couple of birdies, you feel a bit more comfortable, you get a bit of momentum and you get into a bit of a flow, and that’s what happened,” McIlroy said.
Kaymer started slowly with a birdie and bogey on the front nine but had four birdies to go with a bogey on the back. He finished off with an eagle after an impressive drive on 18.
“I think I played very well. I hit a lot of good golf shots, hit a lot of good iron shots,” Kaymer said. “I had plenty of chances today.”
Siem managed to upstage his more famous German compatriot with his 65. He made a long birdie putt on No. 2, then chipped in on No. 6 for the third of his four birdies on the front. The 223rd-ranked Siem challenged for the lead with three birdies on his last four holes. But he found the water on the 18th with his second shot and finished with a bogey.
“It was one of my best days of golf to be honest,” Siem said. “At the beginning, I didn’t hit all the fairways. But on the back nine, I hit all the fairways and my iron shots were all straight at it.”
Jamieson had five birdies and an eagle in a bogey-free 65.
Rock didn’t have much luck during his round.
“It was a pretty poor round of greens today. Hit the ball quite nice, hit some good shots but my chipping was bad,” Rock said. “Ten is a long ways back. There are a lot of people under par, so I have a lot to do.”