Three things you can count on like clockwork at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open:
- Beautiful weather
- A stunning golf course
- Rory McIlroy nowhere near the top of the leaderboard.
The No. 3 player in the world is a fine host and the tournament benefits his charity, but he’ doing so much that focusing on 18 holes of golf seems borderline impossible.
The US’ Daniel Im and France’s Benjamin Hebert each shot an 8-under 64 to take the Day One lead.
Im turned in a flawless card – eight birdies and 10 pars. He was 6-under on the front nine. Hebert also did not record a bogey. He birdied three straight holes between 6-8 and then four straight between 13-16.
The two are a stroke ahead of Spain’s Jon Rahm, who was on fire earlier in the year before cooling off the last few months. After a bogey on No. 3, Rahm went birdie-par-birdie-eagle to get to 4-under on the front nine, then birdied 13-15 on the back nine.
England’s best young player, Matthew Fitzpatrick, is tied for sixth at 6-under. World No. 2 Hideki Matsuyama is tied for ninth at 5-under.
McIlroy is tied for 106th with an even-par 72. He had two birdies and two bogeys in the first seven holes then recorded 11 straight pars to end his round.