Donaldson delights in Dubai as McIlroy maintains fine form

Rory McIlroy is among the chasing pack but Jamie Donaldson was the star of the show on day one of the Dubai Desert Classic.

Jamie Donaldson in action   -  Getty Images

Jamie Donaldson lit up round one of the Dubai Desert Classic with a stunning 10-under-par 62 to lead by one stroke, while Rory McIlroy's encouraging start to 2018 continued on Thursday.

Welshman Donaldson almost lost his European Tour card last season, before a fourth-placed finish at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters spared him that misfortune.

And Donaldson displayed the kind of form that saw him make Europe's Ryder Cup team in 2014, hitting nine birdies and an eagle on his opening round at Emirates Golf Club.

Donaldson, starting on the 10th, was already six under by the turn and a streak of five birdies in six holes on the way home had him 11 under, before a bogey at the last blotted his card slightly.

Hot on his coattails are English duo David Horsey and Anthony Wall, the former hitting 10 birdies and just one bogey, while the latter was blemish free during his round of 63.

Tyrrel Hatton is in outright fourth, while McIlroy is just three strokes off the pace as one of a clutch of five players in a tie for fifth.

The Northern Irishman made his return from a hip injury at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship last week, where he placed joint-third.

The four-time major winner, also starting at the 10th, signed for a bogey-free 65 to remain well in the hunt.

Further down the leaderboard, Rafa Cabrera Bello is at three under, but the Spaniard – having made a difficult start – went eagle-eagle at the final two holes, the first player to achieve the feat at the tournament this century. 

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