Top-ranked Rory McIlroy returned from a six-week absence to shoot a 6-under 66 for a share of the lead on the first day of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship on Thursday.
McIlroy birdied four of his opening five holes and then two of the last four to join Irishman Shane Lowry at the top of the leaderboard at the Earth Course at Jumeriah Estates Resort.
“The way I played it should have been five birdies in the first five holes,” he said. “It was a great way to start. You never expect to start like that, but I've been hitting the ball well for the last couple of weeks that I've been practicing and it was just a matter of trying to take that good range play on to the course, and I was able to do that today, which I'm really happy about.”
McIlroy has been in Dubai for the better part of two weeks after electing not to contest any of the opening three events on the Tour's Final Four Series.
He played in the Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda but his Dubai round is a first competitive effort on tour since shooting a final round 68 for a share of second place last month in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
“I played the two days at the PGA Grand Slam but I wouldn't really call that competitive,” he said. “So the last shot that I hit was St. Andrews I guess, was my last competitive shot. So I was really looking forward to just getting out there and feeling what it was like again. Yeah, I was excited.”
Lowry arrived in Dubai fresh off the disappointment of finishing in 25th place in last week's Turkish Airlines Open. Ranked No. 52, the Dubliner is hoping to finish inside the top 50 and with an exemption to enter all four majors in 2015.
“Last Sunday was a very difficult day for me as for the last 12 holes I couldn't wait to get off the golf course and come here to Dubai,” he said. “Once I got here on Monday, I was fine as I had put myself into contention which is a positive I can look at from last week.”
Scotland's Richie Ramsay and Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen share third place after rounds of 67.
PGA Tour rookie Tony Finau shot a 9-under 63 at Del Monte and had a two-stroke lead over Billy Andrade and Lee Janzen of the Champions Tour after Thursday's opening round of the Callaway Pebble Beach Invitational.
Finau, one of the longest drivers in golf, had nine birdies, one bogey and eagled the 331-yard par-4 11th after hitting his tee shot six feet from the pin.
Andrade, a four-time PGA Tour winner who just completed his first Champions Tour season, had a 65, also at Del Monte.
Janzen, a two-time U.S. Open winner, tallied his 65 at Spyglass Hill.
PGA Tour players James Hahn, Matt Bettencourt and Kyle Reifers all had 67s in the 43rd annual tournament that includes 82 pros from the four major tours and mini tours as well.
Defending champion Adam Scott struggled in the blustery conditions at Metropolitan Golf Club on Thursday for a 1-over 73, six strokes behind a group of four of his countrymen who led the Australian Masters by a stroke after the first round.
Scott, who won the Masters the past two years at other sand-belt courses — Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath — began play on the back nine Thursday and shot 38, including a double-bogey on the 18th after his approach found a bunker.
Australians Michael Wright, Stephen Allan, Steven Bowditch and amateur Todd Sinnott shot 67s to share the lead. Bowditch had the outright lead until making bogey on his last hole.
Julieta Granada played bogey free in a tough wind Thursday for a 6-under 66 to take a two-shot lead in the CME Group Tour Championship.
Stacy Lewis was three shots behind — and one step closer to $1 million.
The season finale on the LPGA Tour is the conclusion to the Race to CME Globe that pays a $1 million bonus. Only the top nine players in the standings can win the big prize, and Granada isn't one of them. She still hopes to close the year with a title.
Lewis made a late eagle and shot 69.
The top three in the race — Lewis, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko — have to win the tournament for the $1 million bonus. Park and Ko shot 71.