A former No. 1 and a pair of popular Brits hold the lead at the DP World Championship at the conclusion of Thursday’s first round in Dubai.
The biggest co-stars of the event, Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett, are two strokes off the lead, tied at 4-under with six other players.
The four men atop the leaderboard are Martin Kaymer, Andy Sullivan, Marcus Fraser, and Ian Poulter at 6-under, each with an opening-round 66.
Kaymer, who hasn’t won a tournament since the 2014 US Open, scattered eight birdies around a pair of bogeys to stake his share of the lead. Sullivan was 4-under through the first seven holes thanks to an eagle 3 on the 572-yard No. 5.
Australia’s Fraser, just 53rd in the Race to Dubai standings and ranked 133rd in the world, was 7-under through 14 before bogeying No.16; and Poulter played a bogey-free round with three birdies on the front nine and three more on the back.
Francesco Molinari is all alone one stroke back after shooting a 67.
McIlroy, playing for the first time in two weeks, had just one blemish, a bogey on No. 10 en route to his 68. Willett was much the same, with his lone bogey on No. 13, and Brendan Grace, currently sixth in the standings, started with four straight birdies and was 5-under through six holes before coming back down to earth.
Also in the mix at 4-under is the event’s youngest player, Brit Matthew Fitzpatrick, and it’s oldest, Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez, who will turn 52 in early January.
One of the ugliest rounds of the day came from the tournament’s two-time defending champion. Henrik Stenson is tied for 58th (and last) following a 5-over 77.
He was at even par through 14 holes before disaster struck, a bogey on 15, a triple bogey- on the par-4, 486-yard No.7 and another bogey on 16 to limp to a 5-over 41 on the back nine.