Rory McIlroy lies two shots off lead in Dubai Desert Classic
Rory McIlroy lies two shots behind leader Bernd Wiesberger after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
The world number one made good use of the benign conditions to post an opening six-under-par 66 which included seven birdies and a solitary bogey.
Graeme McDowell is one shot worse off thanks to a bogey-free round.
Michael Hoey faces a struggle to make the cut as a 72 left him on level par, while Darren Clarke is one over following an opening 73.
Austrian Wiesberger enjoys a one-stroke lead over English pair Lee Westwood and Andy Sullivan, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and American Peter Uihlein.
McIlroy is one of a number of players tied for sixth position as much of the field cashed in on a low-scoring first day, aided by lower than predicted winds.
The Northern Ireland golfer was returning to the scene of his first professional win six years ago as he chases victory after finishing second in his last three events.
McIlroy, who started on the 10th, has secured four consecutive top-10 finishes at the Emirates Golf Club and admitted he would have liked more of a test.
"I'd be disappointed if I didn't shoot anything below 68 today, especially with the conditions and 66 is a nice start," said the four-time major winner.
"I'd like to see it blow a little bit and make it more of a challenging golf course - you still need to hit the shots, but it would be nice to play in some conditions that are a little different than this."
"It was a little disappointing to bogey the last but the golf I played up until then was nice.
"It's a solid start. I felt like I hit the ball very well for the most part and gave myself plenty of birdie chances and was able to convert a few more of them than I was doing in Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks ago.
"I putted nicely and it's definitely something to build on for the next few days."