Rory McIlroy makes mixed start to his Dubai Desert Classic defence

Reaching four under at the turn, McIlroy bogeyed three holes in a row on his back nine

Rory McIlroy had a mixed start to his defence of the Dubai Desert Classic as he shot a one-under-par 71 at Emirates GC.

Starting on the 10th hole, the world number two fired four birdies in his opening nine holes, birdieing the three par 5s and holed a nice approach from 10 feet at the par 4 16th.

After a drop shot at the first, his 10th hole, he drove the green on the 2nd to set up another birdie and get back to four under. That was as good as it got for the Northern Irishman who bogeyed the sixth, seventh and eighth holes to fall back to one under, four back of the lead held by four golfers Haotong Li, Cameron Young, Andy Sullivan and Rasmus Hojgaard.

Tom McKibbin was a shot worse than McIlroy at level par after a 72. Pádraig Harrington shot a one-over-par 73.


Three-time winner on the DP World Tour last season Adrian Meronk is among the group of players one back of the lead after a four-under-par 68 in the opening round.

“I was happy my course management. I wasn’t hitting my best all day,” Meronk said. “So I just try to hit as many greens as possible and make putts, which I did. So I’m pretty happy with the end result. A little disappointed [to bogey the last] but it’s okay.”

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David Gorman

David Gorman

David Gorman is a sports journalist with The Irish Times