Dubai, United Arab Emirates (SportsNetwork.com) - Rory McIlroy fired a 9- under-par 63 on Thursday to grab a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
World No. 1 Tiger Woods, who missed the 54-hole cut at last week's Farmers Insurance Open, shares 10th with six others after shooting 4-under 68.
McIlroy, who tied for second in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, carded seven birdies and an eagle during his bogey-free round at Emirates Golf Club.
"It was really nice," said McIlroy. "I played really well from tee to green, drove the ball well again; I think I only missed a couple of fairways and only missed one green where I had to really get it up and down.
"I took advantage of how I am driving the ball and just need to do more of the same the next three days."
Edoardo Molinari shot 7-under 65 to snare second place, while defending champion Stephen Gallacher, Richard Sterne, Damien McGrane, Julien Quesne and Matthew Baldwin share third at 6-under 66.
Woods, starting at No. 10 alongside McIlroy and Gallacher, notched birdies at all three par-5s during his opening nine, adding another gain at the 15th to turn in 33. He closed with nine straight pars, however, as he struggled to find his form off the tee.
Still, the opening-nine performance was a welcome improvement for Woods, who failed to birdie a single par-5 at Torrey Pines last week.
"I played all right today," said Woods. "I probably could have got a couple more out of it. I didn't hit a bad putt today which was nice, it was just that sometimes the grain grabbed it pretty hard at the end."
Soren Hansen and Robert Rock are tied for eighth after carding matching 5- under 67s.
McIlroy, who recorded his first win as a professional at this event in 2009, never appeared in danger of dropping a shot.
The former world No. 1 tallied five birdies during his opening nine, including three straight from the 12th, to turn in 32. He didn't relent, adding another birdie at the second before finding the green in two at the par-5 third and draining the eagle putt. McIlroy's final gain came in the form of a birdie at the seventh and the world No. 6 parred out from there to hit the clubhouse in 63.
"All in all it was a really good score," McIlroy stated. "The scores are pretty low out there so I'm gonna need something similar the next few days to keep myself up there."
NOTES: McIlroy has recorded three straight top-10 finishes on the European Tour dating back to last year ... Woods won this event in 2006 and 2008. He is playing here for the first time since 2011 ... World No. 3 Henrik Stenson is tied for 35th place at 2-under-par 70 ... No one has ever successfully defended the Dubai Desert Classic title.