Sunday 16 December 2018

'I'm ahead of schedule right now' - Rory McIlroy continues fine form as he takes share of the lead in Dubai Desert Classic

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during the round one of the Dubai Desert Classic Golf Championship
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during the round one of the Dubai Desert Classic Golf Championship

Phil Casey

A delighted Rory McIlroy admitted he was ahead of schedule on his comeback from injury after carding a brilliant opening round in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy called an early end to a winless and injury-plagued season last October, but returned with a tie for third in Abu Dhabi last week and carried on where he left off on Thursday.

The four-time major winner fired seven birdies and no bogeys at Emirates Golf Club, a venue where he has won twice and compiled five other top-10 finishes in his last seven starts, to share second place behind clubhouse leader David Horsey.

Horsey carded 10 birdies and one bogey in a superb 63 which left him two clear of McIlroy, Thomas Pieters, Alexander Bjork, Chris Paisley and Lasse Jensen, with defending champion Sergio Garcia among a group of players two shots further back on five under.

"I don't think you could have got better conditions out there," McIlroy told Sky Sports. "The greens in the morning are perfect and there wasn't much wind for probably the first 12 or 13 holes. So you needed to take advantage of it today. Thankfully I was able to do that.

"I feel like I left a few out there but at the end of the day, 65, you're not going to complain about that."

Asked to compare his mood now and at the end of last season, the former world number one added: "It's a big difference. Not being able to play to my best last year was something that I was very frustrated with.

"But from then until now, it completely different. I'm really happy with where my body is, where my game is and this is just a progression of what I've seen over the past couple of months, which has been nice.

"I didn't expect to play as well as I did last week, and it's been nice to continue that into this week. Yeah, I'm ahead of schedule right now, but I don't mind that. That's nice. (I) Just have to reassess everything and go from there."

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