Dubai Desert Classic 2015: Rory McIlroy shows class as court date nears

Round of 66 gives world No 1 the overnight lead

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The Independent Online

On another day of routine accumulation Rory McIlroy claimed his regulation spot on the front page of a leader board at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

A bogey at the last pegged him back to a 66, two behind the overnight lead. If this is how a pending court case slows him down, heaven help the field when the judge in Dublin finally passes judgment on McIlroy’s dispute with his former management company.

“It’s another good start here and something to build on,” McIlroy said. “It’s a bit like the way I started at Abu Dhabi two weeks ago. I didn’t hit a fairway until my eighth hole [the 17th], but I scored well and then made some nice birdies coming in. I’m not going to grumble about a 66, although you’re not going to get the course any easier.”

Easy, hard, what’s the difference to him? Top of the pile on the opening day sat Bernd Wiesberger, who began the last round at the PGA championship in the final group alongside McIlroy. Five birdies on the spin in the last six holes catapulted the Austrian to the front with a 64.

One behind in a share of second was Lee Westwood, playing his first tournament of the year and his first since his life-saving exploits in the Caribbean last week.

“I wasn’t swimming through shark-infested waters or killer jellyfish or anything like that, climbing over razor-sharp coral,” Westwood reported in typically self-deprecating fashion.

“I was lying on the sunbed nursing a hangover and I heard a gentleman sort of yelp out for help. Athletically, obviously, I got up off the sunbed and pounced down the beach towards the sea and lifted him up over my head and carried him out of the water.” Asked if he fed the sharks afterwards, Westwood quipped: “I kicked their arses with my spare hand.”

Westwood is steadily rebuilding his game and reputation. Victory in Thailand to close out 2014 on a high was substantiated with an opening 65 here.

“It [Thailand] was the first time I had come out of a pack within one or two of the lead and shot a good score,” he said. “A 67 was a good round. It was nice to win and give myself some confidence to take into Christmas and the new year, and then come out [here] with that confidence.”

Tributes flowed for former Open champion Kel Nagle, who died today aged 94. Nagle was one of Australia’s most successful and popular golfers, winning 81 titles, including at least one every year between 1949 and 1975.

His finest moment came in 1960 when he won the Centenary Open at St Andrews, beating Arnold Palmer by a stroke.

The Open champion McIlroy said: “I know a little bit of his Open win at St Andrews, when he beat Palmer, so it will be a sad occasion this year for everyone heading back to the Old Course. But then I’m sure there will be a few glasses raised in Mr Nagle’s memory at the former champions’ dinner.”

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