Thursday, 19 May 2016
Day 1 Highlights - Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

Masters Tournament champion Danny Willett made a brilliant return to European Tour action as he posted an opening round of 65 to take a two-shot lead over Rory McIlroy at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation.

The Englishman took a long break after winning his first Major Championship at Augusta National in April but showed no signs of rust at The K Club as he got to seven under and opened up a gap to the tournament host.

Willett's Green Jacket triumph was his second win of the campaign but McIlroy has also been in sparkling form with five top tens in his five appearances so far, although he has missed the cut at this event in the last three years.

Willett currently leads the defending Race to Dubai champion by over a million points in the battle to be Europe's Number One but after the two took the contest right to the wire last season, we could be set for an intriguing battle again in 2016.

Rain in the morning coupled with wind and sun in the afternoon meant County Kildare lived up to its tempestuous reputation as the World Number Nine and World Number Three rose to the top of the leaderboard.

"Things have been a bit mental but it's just great to be back in Europe playing golf, being around the lads that I've obviously played golf with for the last eight years," said Willett. "I'm very happy to be back here.

First is never bad after one day. There's still three days left and a lot can happen - Danny Willett

"We started off a little scrappy and then we just kept plodding along. Tried not to make too many mistakes. We had seen that there are a few scores in and around two or three under par, which we were looking at being a really good score.

"I just seemed to get hot with the putter on the back nine and rolled a few in, and not too many mistakes."

Callum Shinkwin and Jaco Van Zyl were then at four under, a shot clear of defending champion Søren Kjeldsen, two-time Major winner Martin Kaymer, Ross Fisher and Brett Rumford.

Fisher and Kaymer had set the clubhouse target in the morning and sat atop the leaderboard for a long time before a flurry of birdies saw a six-way tie develop with Shinkwin, who started on the tenth, turning in 34.

McIlroy had birdied the fourth and sixth and he rolled in a downhill putt on the ninth to also join that group before Shinkwin edged ahead with a birdie on the second.

Willett joined McIlroy with birdies on the third, seventh and ninth to also turn in 32 and while Shinkwin would get to five under with a birdie on the fifth, the two highest ranked players in the field went to work reeling him in.

McIlroy took advantage of the par five tenth but Willett followed suit with a brilliant approach and then birdied the 11th to get to five under. The four-time Major winner then got to that mark as he left himself less than 100 yards with his second on the 13th and holed from the fringe but Willett stuck an approach to three feet on the same hole for another birdie.

McIlroy three-putted the 14th to drop a first shot of the day while Shinkwin bogeyed the eighth and when Willett holed a long downhill putt on the 14th, he had a three-shot lead.

A wayward tee-shot led to Willett dropping a shot on the 17th as McIlroy birdied the par five last but the 28 year old followed suit to establish a cushion.

Van Zyl had turned in 35 but made four birdies on the back nine to move up the leaderboard while Kjeldsen and Rumford both eagled the last to join Fisher and Kaymer.

Kaymer also had an eagle on the fourth in his 69 while Fisher recorded seven birdies, two bogeys and a double.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MCILROY, RoryNIR18-12
T2DREDGE, BradleyWAL18-9
T2KNOX, RussellSCO18-9
4SOUTHGATE, MatthewENG18-8
T5KAYMER, MartinGER18-6
T5KIEFFER, MaximilianGER18-6

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