DUBAI • Rory McIlroy struggled to a three-over 75 and the other contenders to top the European money list also made slow starts in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship first round in Dubai yesterday.
Lee Westwood led the field with an opening six-under 66, while British Open champion Henrik Stenson, who leads the money list, shot level-par 72.
Stenson's Swedish compatriot Alex Noren and Britain's US Masters winner Danny Willett had rounds of 71.
Westwood was delighted with his performance in which he carded seven birdies and one bogey, calling it "the best performance of my career".
"This is as good as I've played for quite some time," he said.
"Maybe even the best performance of my career. I've found a couple of keys in different parts of my game and I've been working on them hard. It all came together today.
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I've found a couple of keys in different parts of my game and I've been working on them hard. It all came together today.
LEE WESTWOOD , on carding a six-under 66 to lead after the first round of the DP World Tour Championship.
"A 66 is a good round of golf. It didn't seem that easy out there. Some days you feel like there's a lot of birdies out there but today I think was a pretty stiff test.
"It's a golf course I've played well on in the past and I've been looking forward to this week."
Westwood matched his opening-round score in the inaugural event in 2009, when he went on to win by six strokes.
World No. 2 McIlroy, fourth on the money list, needs victory in Dubai to win the race with Stenson finishing outside the top 45, Willett failing to make the first five and Noren the top two.
But the Northern Irishman had problems on the greens, making a double-bogey and four bogeys to slump to joint 55th in the 60-man field.
Frenchman Julien Quesne and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts were tied for second behind Westwood after rounds of 67, one shot ahead of Spain's Sergio Garcia, Italian Francesco Molinari and Dutchman Joost Luiten.
Colsaerts carded five birdies but was disappointed not to have done better.
"When you play that well you want to squeeze every shot you can out of it, but I'm confident I can keep rolling like this," he said.
"This is probably the one course that suits my game the best. This is the one that I had my eyes on and I know that if I bring the game that I've been displaying all year out here on this course, it should be a decent recipe."
EUROPEAN TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
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