Marc Warren (Getty Images)
Scot Marc Warren threw down the gauntlet at the DP World Tour Championship with a six under par opening round of 66 in Dubai.
The 31 year old, in his first appearance at The European Tour's season-ending event since it moved to the Middle East in 2009, held an early one stroke lead over compatriot Stephen Gallacher after a morning of low scoring at Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Earth Course.
The tournament is limited to the top 60 money-winners on The Race to Dubai this year, although only 56 teed off. Thomas Bjorn and Retief Goosen were out injured, Ross Fisher withdrew earlier in the week and Ireland's Shane Lowry pulled out after going down with a virus that even put him on a drip in hospital.
Warren birdied three of the first five holes, added another on the 461 yard eighth to turn in 32 and then went to five under on the 12th.
He did bogey the short next, but played a brilliant chip shot up a bank to five feet on the long 14th and saved par at the next despite hooking an iron off the tee behind a tree and having to chip out.
His approach there finished only three feet from the flag and he followed that with another birdie at the 486 yard 16th, his second shot finding the slope left of the hole and rolling down to around eight feet.
Gallacher birdied five of the first ten holes, while joint third on four under were Warren's Irish playing partner Peter Lawrie and yet another of the Scottish contingent, Scott Jamieson.
The field were sent out in reverse Race to Dubai order, meaning Rory McIlroy - already with the Number One spot on both sides of the Atlantic in the bag - was last out with Swede Peter Hanson.
Warren's day began with a "mad rush" to find his waterproofs after stepping outside his hotel and seeing heavy rain - 20 millimetres of it in two hours - but it soon cleared up and he had perfect conditions for his round.
"There was no wind to speak of and the greens were pure. I felt as if I hit a lot of good golf shots," he said.
"This is something I've watched on television the last few years, but I've made steady progress and have got into contention a few times."
His last victory was in 2007 and he blew a great chance at his home Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in July, dropping four shots in the last four holes to lose by one just like Adam Scott at The Open Championship the following week.
"Winning is the most fun you can have at a golf tournament and it's something I want to do again soon," he added.
He was two in front when Gallacher bogeyed the 12th to fall alongside Jamieson, Lawrie and Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed as McIlroy started with a par.
McIlroy got up and down from a bunker at the 583 yard second and remained one under after six, but Welshman Jamie Donaldson joined Warren out in front by turning in 32 as well and then adding birdies on the 13th and 14th.
They were a stroke ahead of Andersson Hed and also Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, who birdied the 16th and 17th from six feet and missed a similar length chance at the 620 yard last.