Rory ‘surprised myself’ with easy 62 to open year

Rory ‘surprised myself’ with easy 62 to open year
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It was an easy, stress-free start to the year for Rory McIlroy.

Beginning his season for the first time at the Dubai Invitational, McIlroy carded a bogey-free, 9-under 62 to take a two-shot lead after the opening round.

McIlroy is starting his year with back-to-back events in Dubai, including his title defense next week at the Dubai Desert Classic.

But first on the docket was the Dubai Invitational, which McIlroy said earlier this week he was playing primarily as a favor to his longtime friend, Abdullah Al Naboodah, a non-executive director for the European Tour Group. The format with 60 pros and 60 amateurs was a “very easy way” for McIlroy to kick off his year, especially since he can stay on-site and get his game sharp for the bulk of the season.

Of course, McIlroy looked plenty dialed on Day 1, coming home in 30 to take the early lead over Yannik Paul.

“I didn’t expect that,” McIlroy told reporters afterward. “It didn’t feel quite as good as that the first couple of days when I was here and hitting balls and playing the course. But it was nice to get a card in the hand again and feel the competitive juices flowing. Surprised myself a little bit, but hopefully more of the same over the next few days.”

The Dubai doubleheader is part of a new strategy for McIlroy, who wants to play more competitive golf heading into the Masters. He hopes that the year’s first major will be his ninth or 10th start of the year, as opposed to his sixth or seventh.

“I’ll hopefully be a bit sharper and know exactly where my game really is,” he told Golf Digest earlier this week.

If his first round of the new year is any indication, he’s off to a good start.

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