DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy upstaged the world's top three golfers with a 7-under 65 Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Dubai Desert Classic, four shots better than No. 1 Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer and six ahead of an inconsistent Tiger Woods.
McIlroy, whose only European Tour win came in Dubai two years ago, had eight birdies to go with one bogey at the Emirates Golf Club. The seventh-ranked McIlroy took the early lead and held it. Sergio Garcia (67) and Thomas Aiken (67) trailed by two shots in windy conditions.
"I really had a lot of iron shots and got away with a couple of drives that I was quite fortunate to make birdies from," the 21-year-old McIlroy said. "I had a putt for a 64 on the last that didn't quite go in. But I'll take 65 in these conditions any day."
Woods shot a 71 and had problems early in the day, twice going to 2 over. But he eagled the 18th hole after hitting a 3-wood about 250 yards to the green.
Never miss a local story.
"I struggled today with ball flight," he said. "My trajectory wasn't what I wanted on a lot of shots, and consequently, I could never get a ball pin high especially when the wind is blowing this hard."
Much of the buzz coming into the opening round centered on the grouping of the top three golfers.
Westwood made several putts en route to four birdies. But he faltered toward the end, three-putting on 17 to miss out on another birdie and scoring a lone bogey on the 18th when his approach shot fell short of the green and nearly rolled into the water.
Kaymer's approach shot on the ninth hole hit the grandstand and ended up in the water, leading to a double bogey. He finished with six birdies, including one on the 17th where his drive cut the corner on the 359-yard hole and ended up on the green. He narrowly missed an eagle putt.
There is more at stake this weekend than just the tournament title. Westwood could lose the top ranking if Kaymer wins and he finishes lower than second, and if Kaymer finishes second and Westwood is out of the top 10. If Kaymer is tied for second, he could still become No. 1 if Westwood finishes out of the top 36.
Two tied at Pebble Beach
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — With eight birdies on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula, D.A. Points opened the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with a 7-under 63 and shared the lead with Steve Marino.
Marino had a most unusual 7-under 65 at Spyglass Hill in that he failed to birdie any of the par 5s. He still managed seven birdies.
The best shot of the day belonged to Alex Cejka, who was one shot behind after a 64 on the Shore Course. He started his day by holing out a 3-wood from the fairway on the par-5 10th. The PGA Tour checked its records as far back as 1982 and could not find another player who had started a round with an albatross.