Rory McIlroy hits seven birdies on back nine to shoot up Omega Dubai Desert Classic scoreboard
RORY McIlroy had seven birdies in his last 10 holes to finish the opening round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic only three behind Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello today.
It could have been even better for both of them, however.
Cabrera-Bello had the chance to achieve the European Tour's first-ever 59 when he stood on his 12th tee nine under par.
It left him needing four more birdies to achieve the magic figure, but the 27-year-old Canary Islander parred in for a 63 and a two-stroke lead over German Marcel Siem and Scotland's Scott Jamieson.
World number two McIlroy was deep in the pack at one over after eight, but a birdie on the difficult ninth sparked him into life and by the time he almost holed-in-one on the 15th - Scot Stephen Gallacher did make an ace there - he was up to five under.
Two glorious shots to the 564-yard 18th gave him an opportunity to close with an eagle, but the 2009 winner - it was his first professional victory - had to be content with two-putting for another birdie.
Cabrera-Bello told European Tour Radio: "Just for a second after the birdie on number two (his 11th hole) I tried to do the maths on what I needed for 59.
"Then I told myself to stop being foolish and don't be too greedy. Nothing wrong happened - there were some tough holes to come and I didn't drop a stroke.
"It's a really, really good score, but in itself it means nothing. If you want to stay grounded you think of how many leaders of the first round win the tournament. Not that many.
"I know I have to play really, really good just to have a chance."
Lee Westwood had a 69, last week's winner Paul Lawrie a 71 after closing with a double bogey on the ninth and Abu Dhabi champion Robert Rock a disappointing 73.
Siem had the chance to grab his lowest-ever round on the circuit when he stood on the fairway at the par five 18th eight under, but his second flew right of target into the lake - he thought there must have been mud under the ball - and he ran up a bogey six.
Highlight of Jamieson's round was an eagle three on the 550-yard 13th and the 28-year-old Glaswegian backed it up with five birdies, three of them on the par threes.
Lawrie had kept a bogey off his card as well until his approach to the tricky ninth finished on the wall on the edge of the water. He took a penalty drop, but could not get up and down.