If there was any doubt if Rory McIlroy liked playing golf in the Dubai, he put all of that to rest on Thursday at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. At the site of his first win as a professional, the 24 year-old from Northern Ireland shot a bogey-free -9 under par 63 at the Emirates Golf Course for a three-shot lead. This is the 25th anniversary of the event, and the last on the European Tour’s Desert Swing for the 2014 season.
Playing alongside McIlroy were the two-time winner of this tournament, Tiger Woods, and the 2013 champion, Stephen Gallacher. McIlroy was the only one in the group to not pick up a birdie at the first hole. In fact, he didn’t get it going until the third hole, but after the first of three in a row, he never took his foot off the gas until he was in the clubhouse.
In very calm, almost pristine conditions on Thursday morning , McIlroy made the turn at -5 under par. He seemed to have the speed on the tipped Bermuda grass greens dialed in all day. The greens were running just shy of 13 on the Stimpmeter and are in great condition.
The strength of Rory McIlroy’s game is his driver. He was four under on the par 5’s today including an eagle three at the third hole. The only par five he didn’t birdie was the tenth(his first) when he hit his approach shot long, and was unable to convert from behind the green.
McIlroy was the only one in the group who didn’t make birdie at the first hole, but he well made up for it later. Although he didn’t make as many birdies on his inward half, he didn’t make any mistakes either.
Tiger Woods shot a bogey-free -4 under par 68 in the opener, after his lack-luster performance on Saturday at the Farmers. He still continues to struggle with the driver, and at times uses the three-wood on the par fives. He was able to convert the par 5’s on the back nine for birdies on Thursday, but made all pars on the front.
The third-wheel in this group, Stephen Gallacher from Scotland who won this event in 2013, shot a very nice -6 under par 66 on Thursday to keep pace. Gallacher picked up his only bogey of the day at the par three second hole. He leveled his round with an eagle three at the 18th.
In case you were wondering if Rory McIlroy has his golf game back, I think his performance on Thursday should put your fears to bed. The win he picked up in Australia against Adam Scott back in December was, in my opinion, the turning point. Since the four-shot come-from-behind victory over Adam Scott, he has been stellar, and looks to be the Rory McIlroy of old!
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