Bogey-free McIlroy begins 2024 with a stunning 62, leads Dubai Invitational by two

Teeing up for the first time since winning the Race to Dubai Trophy in Dubai November, Rory McIlroy produced a bogey-free 9-under 62

Dubai, Jan 11 (IANS) Teeing up for the first time since winning the Race to Dubai Trophy in Dubai November, Rory McIlroy produced a bogey-free 9-under 62 to take the lead at the inaugural Dubai Invitational tournament at the Desert Creek Resort.

McIlroy, seeking a sixth career win in Dubai, had nine birdies and Germany’s Yannik Paul by two. South African Thriston Lawrence was third at six under and three behind.

Multiple DP World Tour winners and Ryder Cup stars Tommy Fleetwood and Thorbjorn Olesen shot 66 each and were then four shots off the lead.

Carrying on from a brilliant 2023 which saw McIlroy win his first two Rolex Series titles besides finishing in the top ten at three of the four Major Championships, has made it clear that his big goal for 2024 was a fifth Major but he also covets a sixth Race to Dubai triumph as he chases down Colin Montgomerie’s record of eight.

McIlroy started from the tenth and birdied four times on the 11th, 15th, 17th and 18th to turn in 4-under. He added gains on first, third, fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth for splits of 32-30 on the back and front nines.

McIlroy said, “I didn’t expect that,” he said. “It didn’t feel quite as good as that the first couple of days when I was here and hitting balls and playing the course. It was nice to get a card in the hand again and sort of feel the competitive juices flowing.

He added, “This is a nice week to do some extra practice and put some work in so that I feel a bit more ready not just for next week… but also going into the bulk of the season. I surprised myself a little bit but hopefully more of the same over the next few days.”

On the plan here, he added, “I think around the creek you have to miss it in the right spots. There’s some water here and there. I think a did a good job today of managing my misses and missing on the right side and when I did make a hit shot, I managed to take advantage of it.”

Paul set the early pace with an approach to inside five feet at the 11th and a gain after laying up on the 13th. He dropped a shot at the next after leaving his ball in the bunker but holed from 19 feet at the 16th and left himself less than ten feet at the 17th and 18th to make it a hat-trick and turn in 32.

McIlroy also started on the tenth and he put on an approach masterclass, putting his second shots inside ten feet on the 11th, 15th, 17th and 18th to also turn in 32 and share the lead, the highlight being a smart shot from an awkward stance and lie on the 15th.

He led alone after holing a lengthy putt on the first but Paul hit back from 17 feet on the second and reclaimed top spot as he took advantage of the short par-four third.

McIlroy also made the most of the third and got up and down on the par-five fourth, before Paul holed from the fringe at the sixth to join him at seven under.

Paul then parred his final three holes but McIlroy was not finished, leaving himself just five feet on the seventh and eight feet on the ninth to lead by two.

Lawrence was another player to start on the tenth and he picked up shots on the 11th, 14th, 18th, first, third, fourth and sixth, making a single bogey on the second.

Englishman Fleetwood was bogey-free in his 66, while Olesen added an eagle and a bogey to four birdies in his round.

Fellow Dane Nicolai Hojgaard, American Sean Crocker, South African Zander Lombard and Spaniard Adrian Otaegui were at four under.

In the team event, McIlroy and Abdulla Al Naboodah led the way at 13 under, three shots clear of Paul and JJ Dudum.



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