Sunday 22 October 2017

Rory McIlroy ‘disappointed’ despite solid start as Caroline watches on

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his tee-shot on the third hole during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his tee-shot on the third hole during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark watching Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark watching her boyfriend Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Tennis star, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark watching Rory McIlroy during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship, on the Earth Course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Tennis star, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark watching Rory McIlroy during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship, on the Earth Course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in action during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship, on the Earth Course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark watching her boyfriend Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark watching Rory McIlroy during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his tee-shot on the third hole during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates today. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in action during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship, on the Earth Course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates today in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Phil Casey

Spain's Alejandro Canizares set the early clubhouse target in the first round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai today as Rory McIlroy was left to rue the one that got away.

Canizares completed a six-under-par 66 at Jumeirah Golf Estates just seconds before a Red Arrows flypast over the Earth Course timed to take place ahead of the final group of Justin Rose and Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson teeing off.

McIlroy was two under par and on the 17th hole at that point, but found water on the par-five 18th to run up his third bogey of the day and had to settle for an opening 71.

"I feel like I played better than the score suggested and turned a 67 into a 71," said McIlroy, who topped the money list on both sides of the Atlantic last year but came into this event a lowly 46th on the Race to Dubai and still seeking a first win of the year.

"I got off to a great start, was three under par through four and playing really nicely and then got on a run of pars on the back nine. I had chances at the 10th, 14th, 15th and 16th and I'm coming off the course disappointed but I know there is a good score out there."

McIlroy had spoken today of the off-course distractions which have contributed to a poor season by his standards, most notably the legal dispute with his former management company.

And the 24-year-old - who was watched by tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki - added: "It's much better than it has been the last few months and I am playing better, which is important. It's good that the game is back on track.

"I have this event and two more so it would be great to get a win before the end of the season."

Canizares carded seven birdies and one bogey in his 66 before revealing his relief at being in Dubai at all after problems with his girlfriend's visa.

"My girlfriend is from the Czech Republic and I always forget she doesn't have a Spanish passport and needs a visa," Canizares explained. "I only remembered when we got to the check-in desk at the airport in Turkey on Sunday evening and handed over the passports.

"Fortunately we had help from a lot of people and the tournament director Nick Tarrat was waiting with Dubai's captain of immigration when we got to Dubai airport at 3am on Monday morning."

Offaly's Shane Lowry finished alongside McIlroy on one under after a first round 71.

Nine players can still win the Race to Dubai and become European number one, with FedEx Cup winner Stenson in the driving seat thanks to a lead of 213,000 points over Rose.

Stenson, Rose and Graeme McDowell control their own destiny and can secure the Race to Dubai by winning here, while a win for fourth-placed Ian Poulter would mean Stenson needs to finish second to retain top spot.

McDowell got off to a bad start with bogeys at the first and third before a birdie on the fourth, while Rose, Stenson and Poulter were all one under after three holes.

Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Australian Marcus Fraser looked set to join Canizares in the lead, but both bogeyed the 18th to card rounds of 67, five under par.

Meanwhile, Poulter had birdied the sixth and picked up another shot on the seventh after a superb chip from the edge of a divot to 10 feet, but was soon joined on three under by Stenson, who had birdied the fifth and then narrowly missed an eagle putt from 18 feet on the seventh.

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