McIlroy heads straight for the range after mixed opening round of 71

Harrington the best of the Irish on two-under as Lowry and Caldwell end tied with McIlroy

Rory McIlroy had an up-and-down opening round, signing for a one-under 71. Photograph:  Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy had an up-and-down opening round, signing for a one-under 71. Photograph: Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

 

Rory McIlroy’s immediate destination after completing his first round of the Dubai Desert Classic with an up-and-down 71 - four birdies and three bogeys - to trail Denmark’s Joachim B Hansen by six strokes was the driving range at Emirates Golf Club to work on his swing.

“I just need to tidy up a few things,” said McIlroy, in outlining a round which included “a couple of loose shots . . . . (and) a couple of bad decisions, or mental mistakes, and maybe a couple of bad swings in there as well.”

McIlroy, a two-time winner of the tournament in the past, in 2009 and 2015, picked up three birdies in his opening five holes - the 11th, 13th and 14th - but suffered a bogey on the par five 18th, where he hit his approach into the lake, and suffered further bogeys on the second and seventh holes. “Just those last few holes, I feel like I bogeyed three of the easiest holes on the course,” said the world number eight.

Pádraig Harrington actually enjoyed the distinction of being the low man among the quartet of Irish players in the Rolex Series event: the Dubliner overcame an early bogey, on the par five third where he drove into a bush down the left, to record birdies on the 13th, 16th and 17th holes in a strong homeward run to sign for a 70, two-under-par.

McIlroy was joined on 71 by Shane Lowry - who suffered bogeys on his two finishing holes, the eighth and ninth, both the result of pushed drives - and Jonathan Caldwell.

Hansen, a two-time career winner on the DP World Tour (the European Tour that was), most recently in last November’s Dubai Championship, shot a flawless seven-under-par 65, which included four in a row from the second, to claim a one stroke lead over South African Justin Harding who had completed 17 holes when play was suspended due to fading light.

Collin Morikawa, the world number two, turned in 31 strokes and added a further birdie on the second to be seven-under through 11 holes only to drop three shots in his closing four holes and sign for a 68, three behind Hansen.

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