Impressive McIlroy surges into early Dubai lead

Rory McIlroy made a fast start at the World Tour Championship as he shot a first-round 65 to take a two-shot lead in Dubai.

The world No. 8 went three-under through his first two holes after he eagled the par-5 second, before carding seven-under for his opening round.

He leads a group of three players — Tapio Pulkkanen, Joachim Hansen and Christiaan Bezuidenhout — who are in a share of second place at five-under-par.

Collin Morikawa, the Open champion and world No. 2, is among a large contingent of players at four-under, which also includes Sergio Garcia and Robert MacIntyre.

Morikawa, who came into the European Tour’s season-ending event as the leader of the Race to Dubai, looked set to join those in a tie for second-place but dropped a late shot at the par-3 17th.

McIlroy is a two-time winner of the World Tour Championship and is back on form after he followed his disappointing performance at the Ryder Cup in September with a victory on the PGA Tour at the CJ Cup last month.

“I think I’ve got a lot of experience around this place, a lot of great memories. It’s comfortable for me,” McIlroy said.

“After the Ryder Cup I put my head down and figured out what I had to get back to. Getting into contention at only one major this year isn’t good enough, but I feel like I’ve got my golf game back.

“I’m excited for those four events next year and for the week ahead because I feel I’m on the right path again.”

Elsewhere, Will Zalatoris, Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood all shot rounds of two-under, while former Masters champion Patrick Reed is further back after carding an even-par 72.

Morikawa said: “It was pretty solid throughout. Obviously the two bogeys were a little unforced, but I made a few birdies out there and kept the momentum going and it was a good way to start the first rounds out here.

“I felt really good coming into the week with my irons. They showed up today on a few shots and I hit a couple good 7-irons today and just need to keep doing that. That’s my game. And when putts start to drop, we’re close to [top of] the leaderboard.”