DUBAI (REUTERS) - Rory McIlroy rattled in six birdies in an opening round six-under 66 at the DP World Tour Championship on Thursday, mounting a late surge to share a one-shot lead with Ireland's Shane Lowry.
World No. 1 McIlroy started in blistering fashion. He sank a 12-foot birdie on the opening hole on the Earth course and picked up a shot on the second after a misjudged eagle attempt. A lip-out from 10 feet on the third halted his charge, but he shrugged that off with a sublime tee-shot on the 245-yard par three fourth as he made it four birdies in five holes.
The four-time Major winner then recorded nine successive pars before picking up shots on 15 and 16. Lowry made four birdies in his final six holes to also finish one shot ahead of Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen and Scotland's Richie Ramsay who stand joint-third on 67.
Henrik Stenson, second on the money list, shot 68 but the other big names struggled.
Jamie Donaldson made a par 72, Sergio Garcia 73 and Marcel Siam 76. McIlroy was playing for the first time in six weeks after taking a break to fight a still unresolved legal case with his former agents.
Ahead of Dubai, McIlroy said he felt fresh following his break and that could be an advantage over his jaded rivals, many of whom have played back-to-back tournaments for several weeks.
During his break, the Irishman was crowned European Tour money-list winner for the second time in three years after his nearest rivals failed to win the Turkish Airlines Open last week.
But there is still a lot to play for in Dubai, with the top 15 players sharing a US$5 million (S$6.5 million) bonus pool on top of the event's US$8 million purse.