Donaldson leads, McIlroy lurks

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Darren Fichardt connected five birdies on his second nine, authoring a 6-under-par 37-29=66 to end the opening lap of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in a tie for 10th place. The Welshman Jamie Donaldson leads after a remarkable 62 that included nine birdies and an eagle - and a...

Dean Burmester is a further shot behind on five-under in a tie for ninth after signing for a solid 67.

He rolled in another birdie from off the green at the par-three 4th before finishing with five straight pars for a 65.

Englishman Danny Willett endured a hard opening day as he dropped three shots on the eighth and another four on the ninth to finish five-over at the bottom of the leaderboard.

There were six South Africans who teed off in the afternoon field including Branden Grace and Dylan Frittelli. So you needed to take advantage of it.

"I think I've got seven events from now until the Masters, so I'm sort of taking it week-by-week at this point. Thankfully I was able to do that", said the world No.11.

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Garcia got his 2018 off to the ideal start by winning the Singapore Open last week; while Stenson finished his week in Abu Dhabi in sparkling form - carding a brilliant seven under 65 in the toughest conditions of the week on Sunday to finish in eighth position. I feel like started off previous year a little bit sort of 71, 70, instead of getting right into the thick of things from the start. I missed it a year ago and I missed having a chance to win and having a chance to compete. "If someone had said to me at the start of the week, you'd shoot 18-under par your first week back on, I thought, quite a hard golf course". Not being able to play to my best previous year was something that I was very frustrated with.

"I'm not going to lie to you, I was thinking about it (shooting 59)", the world number 292 told Sky Sports.

"But from then until now, it is completely different".

"But I'm really happy with how I played today: no bogeys, and hopefully it's just more of the same, really".

'I'm delighted with how it's going and particularly with my short game, ' said McIlroy.

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