Robert Rock mounted a challenge to Alexander Noren and Charl Schwartzel's first round lead at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, while defending champion Rory McIlroy also kick-started his bid.
With Noren and January’s European Tour Golfer of the Month Schwartzel safely in the clubhouse at four under par after battling the testing windswept conditions at Emirates Golf Club, Rock moved alongside the duo at the top of the leaderboard through 11 holes.
Rock, who finished runner-up three times last season, picked up three shots in his opening nine holes and added a fourth birdie of a testing first day at the par three 11th.
Jeev Milka Singh and Stephen Dodd joined Dane Anders Hansen at three under with McIlroy progressing to two under alongside Damien McGrane and Edoardo Molinari.
With only 12 of the 66 morning starters under par, Simon Dyson, Ross Fisher, Asian number one Thongchai Jaidee and Sweden's Christian Nilsson opened with first rounds of 70 to sit in the clubhouse two shots off the pace.
Earlier, with a blustery wind whipping sand across the Majlis course, South African Schwartzel - already a two-time winner this season - carded a bogey free 68 to join Noren at the head of affairs.
Omega European Masters champion Noren looked on course to claim the clubhouse lead outright but carded his only bogey of the day at the last after hitting into the deep and unforgiving rough.
"It is probably the toughest that I've seen the Emirates and I first played it in 2003," said Africa Open and Joburg Open winner Schwartzel.
"The wind was really blowing; visibility is not much with the sand and the dust. It was tough and you had to hit fairways with the way it is set up."
Noren holed a 25 foot birdie putt at his 12th hole of the day to move to the top of the leaderboard.
But the Swede failed to add to his tally of five birdies on the way home before carding his solitary blemish after paying the price for missing the fairway off the tee.
"It played tough and I understood that and that's why I was able to get off to a good start, the birdie on my third hole got me really motivated," said the 27 year old.
"You know it is tough and you have got to play your shots and all of a sudden I was five under after 12 and it felt really easy, everything went my way."
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