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'I feel I'm a big boy now' - Rory McIlroy relishing major challenge next year after taking two-shot lead in Dubai

'I'm excited for those four events next year, and excited about the road ahead because I really feel like I'm on the right path'

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Rory McIlroy speaks with caddie Harry Diamond at the 18th hole during Day One of The DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy speaks with caddie Harry Diamond at the 18th hole during Day One of The DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy speaks with caddie Harry Diamond at the 18th hole during Day One of The DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy insists he's "excited" about the Majors next year after showing he's "on the right path" again by opening with a stunning 65 in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Winless in the Majors for the past seven years, the world No 8 started birdie-eagle and was six-under through eight holes at Jumeirah Golf Estates' Earth Course en route to a seven-under par round that gave him a two-shot lead over Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen, South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout and last week's AVIV Dubai Championship winner, Denmark's JB Hansen.

The Holywood star has won twice on the PGA Tour this year but after contending only for the US Open, he admits he should be doing better in golf's biggest events and has taken responsibility for his own swing so he can end his Major drought next year.

"I feel I'm a big boy now. I've been around the block a bit, and if I have problems or struggles, I should be able to sort them out myself,"
he said.

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Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy plays his tee shot to the 14th hole during Day One of The DP World Tour Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, United Arab Emirates today. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy plays his tee shot to the 14th hole during Day One of The DP World Tour Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, United Arab Emirates today. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy plays his tee shot to the 14th hole during Day One of The DP World Tour Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, United Arab Emirates today. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

"Instead of looking to others to fix my problems, I'm going to take responsibility a bit and that's what I did after The Ryder Cup.

"Put my head down and spent a lot of time just on the range and just figuring out, okay, this is it do I do well and what do I need to get back to.

"I've always been a very visual player. I always see shots. I don't know how much the shot tracer was out there today, but people probably see me playing shots again.

"Maybe not quite as much as Bubba Watson but still that's how I've always played golf and seen the game, and I just need to get back to seeing it like that again."

As for his frustrations in the Majors, he said: "It's hard, I guess I talked about this a little bit maybe after (winning) the CJ. Cup. I think sometimes when you don't play your best, I maybe don't set my standards high enough sometimes.

"They are high, but getting into contention in one major this year isn't good enough for me.

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"I've done way better than that before and I know I can again, especially with how I'm playing and feeling like I've got my golf game back, basically.

"So I'm excited for those four events next year, and excited about the road ahead because I really feel like I'm on the right path."

He certainly showed he's a force to be reckoned with on the Earth Course, where he has already won twice and has great memories.

"It's comfortable for me," said McIlroy, who made a 25 footer for birdie at the first, then hit a 273 yard fairway wood over a greenside bunker to 13 feet at the second and made the eagle putt.

"I think if you can carry the ball over 300 on this course, it gets a lot easier, just getting over some of those fairway bunkers and the landing areas become that bit wider."

He birdied the fourth from five feet, two putted the long seventh for another birdie, then knocked in a 16 footer at the eighth to get to six under before dropping his only shot of the day following a pull left of the green at the tough ninth.

He responded by firing a wedge to five feet to set up a birdie at the 10th and while he struggled occasionally coming in, he got up and down from sand for par at the 17th before hitting a flop shot close at the par five 18th to finish with a birdie.

Race to Dubai leader Collin Morikawa is tied for fifth after making six birdies in a four-under 68 as his nearest rival for the season-long points race, compatriot Billy Horschel, struggled to a 74 that left him tied 45th.

Fourth ranked Tyrell Hatton is tied 20th with Paul Casey after a 70 with Min Woo Lee and Matthew Fitzpatrick 36th.

Morikawa will win the Race to Dubai as long as Horschel finishes worse than a two-way tie for eighth and Hatton, Lee, Fitzpatrick or Casey don't win.

Despite finding the penalty area and making his second bogey of the day at the 18th, Shane Lowry is tied for 15th after making five birdies in a three-under 69.

Admitting he's keen for his winter break after a grueling season, the Offaly man birdied the third and seventh, bogeyed the ninth, but then picked up shots at the 11th, 14th and 15th before taking six at the 18th.

"I played pretty decent and four-under would have been a decent start had it not been for the dropped shot there at the last," Lowry said.

"It's never nice to drop a shot at the last anytime you play but you put it aside and I look forward to tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Shane Lowry hit five birdies and two bogeys on his way to a three-under round of 69.


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