That six-week layoff sure didn’t slow down Rory McIlroy.
Playing his first competitive round since Oct. 5, the world No. 1 picked up right he left off, carding a bogey-free, 6-under 66 to share the first-round lead at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
“I was really excited to get back on the golf course and play competitively,” he said. “The last six weeks has felt like a long time away from competitive play, so I wanted to get back out there and feel what it was like again.”
McIlroy has already wrapped up the season-long points race. He has said repeatedly this week that he wants to hoist two trophies on Sunday – the Race to Dubai title and the tournament hardware.
He’s now well on his way, after beginning his opening round with four birdies in his first five holes. McIlroy ran off nine consecutive pars before birdies on 15 and 16 put him at 6 under par, tied with good friend Shane Lowry.
Over his last 21 rounds at Jumeirah Golf Estates, McIlroy is a combined 80 under par.
“The golf course really suits my style of play, and I think any course that you go back to where you have good memories, that also helps,” McIlroy said. “I’ve shot a lot of good scores here.”
Indeed, McIlroy has opened with 66 here for the third time in the past four years. On Thursday, he hit 16 greens and needed 29 putts.
McIlroy has runner-up finishes in each of his last two starts (Tour Championship, Dunhill Links), with top 10s in seven of his last eight overall. Next week’s Australian Open will be his final start of 2014.