Rolex Series

Li Haotong among leading quartet in Dubai

Former champion Li Haotong continued his recent return to form as he carded a 67 to share the lead with Rasmus Højgaard, Cameron Young and Andy Sullivan after day one of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

The Chinese endured a slew of missed cuts while finishing 208th and 238th on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex in 2021 and 2023, either side of a 2022 campaign that saw him claim a third DP World Tour win in Germany.

A top 20 last week hinted at another renaissance with a new swing and new equipment and he followed that with a five under par total over the Emirates Golf Club layout where he lifted the trophy in 2018.

Dane Højgaard and England's Sullivan each have four DP World Tour wins as they search for a first Rolex Series triumph, while World Number 25 Young is making his debut in a DP World Tour event not co-sanctioned by the PGA TOUR.

Hero Dubai Desert Classic day one - What the leaders said

Rasmus' twin brother Nicolai, fellow Danes Søren Kjeldsen and Thorbjørn Olesen, South African Louis de Jager, Spaniard Sebastian Garcia, England's Richard Mansell and Pole Adrian Meronk were then all one back on a congested leaderboard in the United Arab Emirates.

Li held off Rory McIlroy to win this event five years ago and McIlroy started his quest for a record-breaking fourth title with a 71 to sit four shots off the lead.

Li played a nice pitch on the par-five third to set up a birdie and holed from nearly 30 feet on the sixth to turn in 33.

An up-and-down from the sand on the par-five tenth brought another gain and when he holed two more lengthy putts on the 11th and 13th, he shared the lead.

He dropped a shot on the 15th but regained it on the 16th with another 30-footer and after a bogey on the 17th, got up and down on the par-five last to set the target.

Sullivan started on the tenth and made the most of the 13th and 18th before hitting a beautiful shot from the fairway bunker to eight feet at the first.

A tee-shot to 14 feet at the fourth was then followed by an approach to six feet at the next and the 36-year-old shared the lead.

A number of players had shared top spot throughout the day only to produce late stumbles but Højgaard and Young bucked that trend with a pair of big finishes.

A smart approach on the first and up-and-down on the driveable par-four second got Højgaard off to a fast start and while he bogeyed the third, he almost aced the par-three seventh.

A second to ten feet set up an eagle on the tenth but bogeys on the 12th and 15th cancelled out a gain on the 13th before Højgaard drove the 17th and got up and down on the last.

Young holed a monster 39-foot putt on the seventh but made bogeys on the second and ninth to turn in 36.

The American was back into red numbers with birdies on the par-five tenth and 13th and better was to come as he left himself four feet on the 16th, got up and down on the driveable 17th and then holed a huge putt from off the green at the last for a closing eagle and a share of the lead.

Olesen joined countryman Højgaard in eagling the tenth and shared the lead with one to play only to find water on the last for his only bogey of the day.

Meronk also bogeyed his last hole - the ninth - to drop out of the lead, while Kjledsen had been at five under but bogeyed the 16th.

De Jager and Nicolai Højgaard were both bogey-free in their rounds of 68, while closing birdies helped get Garcia and Mansell within one.

There was then a group of nine players in the clubhouse at three under, including former World Number One Adam Scott and last week's winner Tommy Fleetwood.

Grant Forrest was also two off the lead with a hole to play, one of nine players left to compete their rounds on Friday morning.

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