McIlroy, Lowry (-6) share early lead in Dubai

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Rust wasn’t a factor for Rory McIlroy on Thursday, as the world No. 1 shot a 6-under 66 to grab a share of the lead at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, his first event in six weeks. Here’s the skinny on the first round at Jumeirah Golf Estates:  

The leaderboard: Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry at -6; Richie Ramsay and Thorbjorn Olesen at -5; Henrik Stenson and Emiliano Grillo at -4 

What it means: McIlroy, who hasn’t finished worse than eighth in his last four worldwide starts, picked up right where he left off at the Alfred Dunhill Links. His Race to Dubai title already wrapped up, and with nothing but personal pride to play for, McIlroy showed up ready to compete in Dubai. He has gone 1st-1st-1st-2nd in his last four European Tour starts, and seems poised to add to that remarkable run. He is now 80 under par over his last 21 rounds in Dubai.

Round of the day: Shane Lowry birdied four of his last six holes to post 6 under. Sitting at No. 52 in the world, it’s an important week for the Irishman as he tries to climb inside the top 50 in the world and gain entry into all of the 2015 majors and World Golf Championship events. Lowry, who hasn’t won since the 2012 Portugal Masters, will play with good friend McIlroy during the second round. 

Best of the rest: Thorbjorn Olesen continued his resurgent form, cruising along at 7 under before a double-bogey 6 at 16. He settled for a 67 and one-shot deficit after Round 1. In the past few weeks, the Thunder Bear has won the Perth International – his first title anywhere since the 2012 Sicilian Open – and tied for sixth at the WGC-HSBC Champions. 

Biggest disappointment: Brooks Koepka and Ian Poulter won’t have another Final Series showdown. Koepka, the winner last week, has battled food poisoning and shot 78 on Thursday. He’s last in the 60-man field. Poulter wasn’t much better, opening with 75 and taking to Twitter to vent his frustration over his poor putting performance. 

Biggest storyline heading into Friday: The DP World Tour Championship is already anticlimactic, with the top spot in the Race to Dubai settled. Now, will anyone catch Rory?