It’s hard to imagine Rory McIlroy could’ve had a better start to his 2024 on the course than he had Thursday.
The 34-year-old Northern Irishman fired a bogey-free 9-under 62 to take a two-shot lead after the opening round at the DP World Tour’s Dubai Invitational at Dubai Creek Resort. Nine birdies, nine pars, and McIlroy leads by two over Yannik Paul after the opening 18 holes.
“Yeah, I didn’t expect that,” McIlroy said after his round. “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 sort of feel the competitive juices flowing. It was a really comfortable group. I really like playing with Ryan and the two amateurs we had.
“So it was a very comfortable pairing and round of golf out there. Yeah, surprised myself a little bit but hopefully more of the same over the next few days.”
Among his nine birdies included a stretch where McIlroy birdied six of eight holes. He also closed his day on the front nine, birdieing Nos. 7 and 9. He gained 4.15 strokes approaching the greens and 2.82 on the greens Thursday.
“It’s a very easy way to sort of get back into things, and this is a nice week to do some extra practice and put some work in so that, you know, I feel a bit more ready not just for next week, which is obviously a bigger event, but also going into the bulk of the season,” he said.
Tommy Fleetwood, who played last week in Hawaii at the PGA Tour’s The Sentry at Kapalua, shot 5-under 66 in his opening round and sits T-4.
McIlroy is making his first start this week since the DP World Tour Championship back in November, where he finished T-22 at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai. He’s also in the field next week at the Dubai Desert Classic, one of the bigger events of the season on the DP World Tour.
McIlroy is confirmed in the field at next month’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California, though it’s unclear whether he’ll make his PGA Tour debut before the signature event on the Monterey Peninsula.