After missing the last month-plus embroiled in a legal dispute, no one in their right mind would expect Rory McIlroy to be on his game against the best competition in the world at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Nobody, of course, except McIlroy himself.
The No. 1 player in the world fired a 6-under 66 to tie Ireland’s Shane Lowry for the lead at the final event of the European Tour 2014 season on Thursday, firing six birdies and no bogeys in the process.
“It was a great way to start,” said McIlroy. “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.
Lowry bounced back nicely from his ugly finish at the Turkish Arlines Open on Sunday in which he recorded a triple bogey after tying for the lead early in the round. He bogeyed No. 10 on Thursday, but followed it up with four birdies in a five-hole span.
Twenty-nine players are at least one stroke under par, including Race to Dubai No. 2 Henrik Stenson, one of two players tied for fifth at 4-under, two strokes off the lead.
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay and Norway’s Thorbjorn Olesen are tied for second at 5-under, one stroke behind Lowry and McIlroy. Olesen might have had the lead to himself, but he double bogeyed the par-4, 486-yard No. 16.