Rory McIlroy shines in Abu Dhabi to take first-round lead following flawless 64

Rory McIlroy enjoyed the benefits of a truncated off-season with a fantastic start to the £5.8million Abu Dhabi HSBC Champion.

McIlroy has an exceptional record in Abu Dhabi with 4 second-place surfaces, 3 thirds and a 5th in his last 9 starts, however he has yet to taste success in among the European Trip’s most significant occasions.

The four-time significant winner likewise sustained the 3rd winless season of his expert profession in 2020, however brushed off a fog hold-up of nearly 3 hours to begin 2021 in design with a perfect 64 to take pleasure in a one-shot lead over Ryder Cup team-mate Tyrrell Hatton on 8 under par.

“It feels good,” McIlroy informed Sky Sports after exceeding his previous finest rating in Abu Dhabi. “I actually thought that to myself after I turned four under.

“I knew 65 is the best I’ve shot here and I’ve shot it a few times, so I thought let’s try to go one better on the next nine and I was able to do that.

“I maybe played slightly better on our front nine, but I holed some really nice putts coming in for birdies. It was probably the best I’ve putted these greens in Abu Dhabi probably in my whole career.

“I’ve always struggled to read them here, but I sort of got my eye in early and kept me going. It was obviously a lovely way to start the year.”

McIlroy started 2020 with 4 straight top-five surfaces and although he had a hard time to recreate such kind after the coronavirus shutdown, the 31-year-old ended the year with a tie for 5th in the Masters, regardless of an opening 75 at Augusta National.

“It was getting better as the year went on and honestly it was sort of disappointing that it finished when it did because I felt like I was getting right back into it,” he included.

“I didn’t really take much time off after Augusta. I sat at home for maybe three or four days and was like I just need to get out there and sort of keep this going.

“Played quite a bit over the Christmas break and practiced quite a bit. Felt maybe as sharp as I’ve ever done coming into the start of the season. It’s paid off early.”

Hatton made an incredible start to his 65 with an eagle on the 10th, his opening hole, and likewise eagled the par-five 18th, the set of 3s originating from a combined range of simply 6 feet.

The world number 9 carded 3 birdies on the front 9, and included: “I’m really happy with that. I think I got away with it.

“In 10 holes I hit one fairway, so that wasn’t ideal. Obviously I can only play with what’s in front of me and I’m happy with the job I managed to do on the end.”

Protecting champ Lee Westwood is 5 shots off the lead after an opening 69 however world number 3 Justin Thomas had a hard time to a 73.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.