Rory McIlroy makes solid start to Dubai Desert Classic title defence

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy won his first European Tour title at the Emirates Golf Club in 2009
Dubai Desert Classic first-round leaderboard
-6 A Noren (Swe); -5 B Rumford (Aus), T Fisher Jr (SA), R Cabrera-Bello (Spa), P Hanson (Swe); -4 R McIlroy (NI), D Lipsky (US), S Dyson (Eng), A Quiros (Spa), B Wiesberger (Aut), E Els (SA), C Wood (Eng), G Storm (Eng)

Rory McIlroy recovered from a poor start to post a four-under-par round of 68 as he began the defence of his Dubai Desert Classic title.

The Northern Irishman bogeyed his first hole, the 10th, at Emirates Golf Club but six birdies and one further bogey saw him end two adrift of Alex Noren.

Sweden's Noren set the early pace with a bogey-free six-under 66.

Fellow Swede Peter Hanson, who was five under after nine holes, is in a four-way tie for second a shot back.

"Overall it was a decent day, a decent score," McIlroy told the European Tour website.

"It wasn't the best way to start, but to bounce back and to birdie some of the tougher holes on the course pleased me.

"When I got myself out of position I was able to get back into position and make my pars.

"I still feel like there's for improvement in my putting, but it's got so much better since I won here in 2009.

Alex Noren
Noren was joint second behind McIlroy 12 months ago

"I have a consistent routine in practice, which I feel helps when you're on the course. Putting goes your way one week and then not the next, but I'm happy with that part of my game at the moment."

Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke held the outright lead after 13 holes, only to play the remaining five in five over for a one-under round of 71.

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