“It’s another good start here and something to build on,” he told reporters afterward. “Not going to grumble about a 66, although you’re not going to get the course any easier.”
Indeed, 12 players shot rounds of 66 or better on Day 1. Four players were at 65, with Bernd Wiesberger leading the way with an 8-under 64.
Since winning the PGA Championship, the world No. 1 has four runner-up finishes, including three in a row on the European Tour. Dubai was the site of his first pro title, in 2009, and he’s finished in the top 10 in every appearance here since.
“Compared to when I first won here in 2009 my golf game is much better and the sort of score I shot this morning just comes a lot easier to me these days,” he said. “Managing my game and knowing how to shoot a score is kind of second nature now, whereas back then 66 would have been a really good score for me. These days, it’s sort of what I expect of myself.”