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Lee Westwood four back as Rory McIlroy leads in Dubai
Dubai Desert Classic first-round leaderboard:
-7 R McIlroy (NI) -5 S Garcia (Sp), T Aiken (SA) -4 J-B Gonnet (Fr), D Willett (Eng), S Webster (Eng), V Dubuisson (Fr), R Sterne (SA), P Martin (Sp)
Selected others: -3 T Hamilton (US), M Kaymer (Ger), L Westwood -1 T Woods (US) level MA Jimenez (Sp) +1 JM Olazabal +4 C Montgomerie (Sco)
McIlroy was an early starter on day one at the stunning Emirates Golf Club
Rory McIlroy eclipsed the elite three-ball of Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods and Martin Kaymer to lead by two after the first day of the Dubai Desert Classic.
McIlroy had eight birdies in his 65 to reach seven under while world number one Westwood dropped his first shot of the day at the last and is three under.
Woods, the world number three, eagled the 18th in a mixed 71 and world number two Kaymer had six birdies in a 69.
Sergio Garcia, without a win since 2008 and ranked 79th, shares second place.
Northern Ireland's McIlroy, who won his only European Tour event to date at this tournament two years ago, began his round at the 10th and was three shots clear of the field after seven birdies in nine holes around the turn.
He dropped his only shot of the day at the seventh, his 16th, after three-putting, but birdied the next after his approach shot finished five feet from the cup, and had to settle for a closing par after missing a birdie chance from seven feet.
"It was a great way to start the tournament," said the 21-year-old. "I got away with a couple of tee shots but apart from that I played well, really smart golf."
Westwood, who missed the cut in Qatar last week, had an opportunity to move into second place with the par-five 18th to play.
But having laid up short of the water, his 92-yard pitch barely cleared the lake and after an indifferent chip he took two more putts and finished his round with an unfortunate bogey.
Westwood escapes from a tight spot but bogeyed 18 when well placed
Despite his finish, the 37-year-old said: "I'm quietly pleased, I played solidly and didn't make too many mistakes. I would have liked to finish one under on the last two holes instead of one over and shot five under, but you have to understand that in Dubai the wind gets up in the afternoon.
"You make a score in the morning over the first two days."
Kaymer was comfortably placed at three under after eight holes but the German double bogeyed the ninth after his second shot ricocheted off the greenside hospitality enclosure across the green into the lake.
However, he picked up three more birdies on the inward nine and drove the green at the 359-yard 17th to collect his sixth birdie of the day.
But the shot of the round came from Woods, the 2006 and 2008 champion, who hit a magnificent three-wood 254 yards over the lake to within five feet and calmly holed the putt.
Without a victory since November 2009, Woods made a poor start after sending his opening approach through the green and taking three more to get down from the fringe grass.
I've only seen him on TV and TV doesn't really do justice sometimes. But he can move it out there
Tiger Woods on Martin Kaymer
Putting continued to be a problem on the opening nine and he missed from less than three feet to drop another shot at the fourth.
Having birdied the sixth he suffered more problems off the tee when he drove into the water at the next, and after sinking long putts to birdie the 10th and 11th, another errant drive found sand and led to a double bogey at the 12th.
But after his superb finish Woods was far from downhearted. "It was one of those days where I fought hard," said the 35-year-old, whose 14th and most recent major title was at the 2008 US Open.
"Unfortunately I got to two over on two different occasions but got it back and all in all I think it was a positive result.
"I missed a lot of putts out there early on, as I had three easy looks and three bad putts. They were just terrible putts but for some reason I just managed to settle down and hit pure putts all day.
Woods has not won a tournament since November 2009
"But then I'm only six back, and on Friday we have fresh greens and probably a bit less wind than what we had this afternoon, so hopefully I can do the same thing in the morning."
Woods, who hosted a coaching clinic for local children after his round, was impressed with playing partner Kaymer and said: "You can see why he's won so many tournaments over the last 18 months.
"He's very steady. Keeps his emotions in check. He plays some shots that kind of impressed me as to how far he can hit it, because I've not seen him hit a ball.
"I've only seen him on TV and TV doesn't really do justice sometimes. But he can move it out there."
Ryder Cup captains past and present, Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal, were paired together.
Montgomerie racked up six bogeys in a 76 and Olazabal dropped four shots in as many holes having been two under after three, finishing one over.
Cup stalwart Miguel Angel Jimenez and power hitter Alvaro Quiros, like Kaymer, also saw shots ricochet into the water off the hospitality units, packed in tightly alongside the ninth and 18th greens.
David Howell, who won this tournament in 1999 when it was staged at the Dubai Creek course, recorded a hole-in-one at the seventh, the 19th in the history of the event, and won first-class airline tickets.