McIlroy’s No. 1 quest nosedives after opening 75

Rory McIlroy’s hopeful climb back to World No. 1 this week nose-dived with a worst-ever round on day one of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

McIlroy found himself near the tail of the 60-player field after a 3-over 75 on the Earth Course at Jumeriah Estates.

Rory McIlory Rory McIlroy (Credit: DP World)

It left the Ulsterman, who would return to head the World Rankings should he win the US$8m event, trailing eight shots behind Lee Westwood who grabbed seven birdies in a six under par 66 to be one clear of Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts and Frenchman Julian Quesne.

Westwood captured the inaugural 2009 DP World Tour Championship and after a dismal Ryder Cup showing, the Englishman has returned to the Tour to finish third in the British Masters and is now on track to claim his first Tour victory in more than two-and-a-half years.

He said: “This is as good as I’ve played for quite some time.”

“I’ve found a couple of keys in different parts of my game and I’ve been working on them hard so it all came together today, and a 66 is a good round of golf.”

In contrast, McIlroy’s effort was his highest score by three shots in 29 loops of the Greg Norman designed course since posting a 72 on day two of the 2010 event.

McIlroy never recovered from being four over par through 10 holes and looked flustered right from the outset when he should have birdied the first.

It wasn’t until the 14th hole he recorded his first birdie and while he also birdied the next, it all turned pear-shape when, after stripping off his right shoe and sock, he failed to get his ball onto the green from the edge of a water hazard to take a double bogey ‘6’.

McIlroy was not alone in walking off frustrated as the three other leading contenders for the Race to Dubai title failed to impress.

Masters Champion Danny Willett and red-hot Swede Alex Noren, and currently two and three on the Race To Dubai, posted one under par 71s while money list leader, Henrik Stenson a 72.

Stenson’s reward in capturing this year’s Open Championship was sitting on the first tee along with the DP Tour Championship trophy and the unique Race To Dubai ‘septor’ reward.

Stenson said: “It wasn’t my best day. I played very average.”

“I had a lot of in-between numbers out there, and I’d say the good putts I hit didn’t go in and the bad ones certainly didn’t. So there was not much happening out there, one bogey, one birdie.”

“I think it’s been a while since I played a round with only one birdie. Just got to rest up and try and make a few more tomorrow.”

And while Stenson would still dearly love to claim a second Race To Dubai No. 1 title, he’s already looking forward to the off-season including taking his three children skiing.

He said: “It’s going to be a nice Christmas break as I’m going skiing with the kids.”

“But then it would still be nice to take back home two of the three trophies on the opening tee. I’m hanging in there. I’m trying my hardest, don’t you worry.”