DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland opened defense of his Dubai Desert Classic title with a 4-under 68 Thursday to share a six-way lead.
“Even though it was very tricky out there overall, it was a good day’s work and I will be in good spirits going into the second round,” said McIlroy, who holed a 35-foot birdie putt at No. 3.
Also shooting a 68 were Alexander Noren of Sweden, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, Italy’s Edoardo Molinari and Stephen Dodd of Wales.
Noren and Schwartzel played early when a sandstorm was blowing in from the nearby desert.
“These were the toughest conditions I have ever seen at the Emirates,” Schwartzel said. “It was not just the wind blowing, but the lack of visibility caused by the sand in it.
“It made the visualising of shots very difficult. It was very hard to pick out a target to aim at when everything was so blurry like that.”
Tom Watson shot a 73 at his first tournament in Dubai, and is T-46.
“I missed two or three very short putts in my opening holes,” Watson said.
While only 12 of 66 players broke par before lunch, 20 players did so in the afternoon when the wind died down.