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Watch: 'Seve-style' recovery a highlight as Rory McIlroy shoots a bogey-free 65 in opening round at Dubai Desert Classic

By Gareth Hanna

Rory McIlroy is just three shots off the lead after an impressive bogey-free opening round 65 at the Dubai Desert Classic.

The world number 11, starting his round at the tenth, was four under par at the turn and followed that up with three birdies in the opening four holes of his back nine. Straight pars from his 14th hole onwards meant Rory finished at -7 in tied second. That allowed Jamie Donaldson to claim the clubhouse lead but McIlroy's opening 18 holes is further proof that he is ready for a successful 2018.

"I don't think you could have got better conditions out there," he told Sky Sports. "The greens in the morning are perfect and there wasn't much wind for the first 12 or 13 holes so you needed to take advantage of it today and thankfully I was able to do that with a low one.

"I feel like I left a few out there but at the end of the day, 65, you're not going to complain about that."

Graeme McDowell finished on level par while Darren Clarke carded a three over par 75.

One of Rory's shots of the day came at the first, his tenth, with this stunning chip, and he followed it up by rolling in the putt:

It's his fifth straight under par round after he carded a tournament total -18 at last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to finish tied third.

McIlroy is playing at a happy hunting ground. The Holywood golfer claimed his first European Tour victory at Emirates Golf Club in 2009 and has not finished outside the top ten in six visits since, with a second win coming in 2015.

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