Golf

Rory McIlroy starts new campaign with flawless opening 62 at Dubai Invitational

McIlroy looked anything but rusty as he recorded nine birdies at Dubai Creek Resort.

Rory McIlroy carded an opening 62 in the first round of Dubai Invitational (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy carded an opening 62 in the first round of Dubai Invitational (Kamran Jebreili/AP) (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

Rory McIlroy exceeded his expectations as he started his 2024 season with a flawless opening 62 in the inaugural Dubai Invitational.

Competing for the first time since finishing a distant 22nd in the DP World Tour Championship, McIlroy looked anything but rusty as he recorded nine birdies at Dubai Creek Resort to open up a two-shot lead over Germany’s Yannik Paul.

Paul carded eight birdies and a solitary bogey in his 64, with South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence on six under and Tommy Fleetwood and Thorbjorn Olesen another stroke back.

McIlroy, who will defend his Dubai Desert Classic title next week, told Sky Sports: “I didn’t expect that.

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

“I surprised myself a little bit but hopefully more of the same over the next few days.

“When the wind gets up it can get a little bit tricky. We played the first 12 or 13 holes basically without any wind and then there was a little coming in.

“I think you just have to miss it in the right spots, there’s some water here and there and I think I did a good job today of managing my misses on the right side and when I did hit good shots I was available to take advantage of them.”

The tournament features a 72-hole strokeplay tournament played alongside a three-day pro-am team event, with Sunday featuring professionals only.

“These pro-ams I either play with my dad or this week I’m playing with the tournament host so there’s maybe added pressure there as well to go out and perform, but it’s a very easy way to get back into things,” McIlroy 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 which is obviously a bigger event, but also going into the bulk of the season.”

Tommy Fleetwood follows his ball on the 11th hole during the first round of the Dubai Invitational (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
Tommy Fleetwood Tommy Fleetwood follows his ball on the 11th hole during the first round of the Dubai Invitational (Kamran Jebreili/AP) (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

Fleetwood is now based in Dubai but had to make a long journey home after finishing 47th in The Sentry in Hawaii last week.

“I played pretty solid for the most part,” the world number 15 said after a bogey-free 66. “I drove it well.

“I feel like with how firm the greens are – they took me by surprise to be honest in the practice round – it’s important to put yourself in places so you can get as much control with your iron shots as possible.

“I was happy with the way I played after long travel but happy to be out here. You know, golf moves fast, and on to another week.”