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Thursday, 25 January 2018
Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy declared himself ahead of schedule as he continued his encouraging start to 2018 with an opening 65 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

The Northern Irishman missed this event last season due to the rib injury that disrupted much of his campaign and he did not feature on the European Tour between the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October and last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

A tie for third at Abu Dhabi Golf Club represented a good comeback for the four-time Major champion and he carried that momentum into a third bogey-free round in five.

"I didn't expect to play as well as I did last week and it's been nice to continue that into this week," he said.

"I'm ahead of schedule right now but I don't mind that. That's nice. Just have to reassess everything and go from there.

"I was excited about the process of trying to get better and trying to get my body better, my game better, so I was excited about that.

"But not being able to play to my best last year was something that I was very frustrated with.

"From then until now, it's completely different. I'm really happy with where my body is, where my game is and this is just a progression of what I've seen over the past couple of months, which has been nice."

McIlroy hit an excellent tee-shot into the 11th, made a long par putt on the 12th and then took advantage of the par five 13th to get to two under.

Another long putt - this time from the fringe - on the 15th brought another birdie and when he made the most of the 18th, he had turned in 33.

I'm ahead of schedule right now but I don't mind that. That's nice. Just have to reassess everything and go from there - Rory McIlroy

An incredible recovery through the trees after a ragged tee-shot on the first was followed by a fantastic approach to the second, and the 28 year old holed from off the green on the fourth to get to seven under.

"It was nice to get off to a good start that way and sort of put yourself right in contention in the tournament straight away," he said.

"That's honestly one of my goals this year. I feel like started off last year a little bit sort of 71, 70 instead of getting right into the thick of things from the start. So it's been nice to start the last couple of weeks like that.

"There's so many chances out here that I knew if I got into a rhythm that some would fall. I feel like I left a few out there but the end of the day, 65, you're not going to complain about that."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1LI, HaotongCHN18-23
2MCILROY, RoryNIR18-22
3HATTON, TyrrellENG18-20
4LEVY, AlexanderFRA18-19
5PAISLEY, ChrisENG18-17
T6RAMSAY, RichieSCO18-16

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