Jamie Donaldson leads the Omega Dubai Desert Classic after a stunning ten-under par round of 62 at the Emirates GC.
The Welshman had to battle last season to maintain his European Tour exemption after a run of injuries saw his form dipping over time since he became Europe's Ryder Cup hero at Gleneagles in 2014.
An eagle and nine birdies through 16 holes had him out in front, needing to birdie his final two holes for a famous 59.
Donaldson would par his penultimate hole before dropping his only shot of the day on the ninth, his last, to sign for ten-under and a one shot lead.
He is chased by a trio of Englishmen, with David Horsey and Anthony Wall both one stroke back and Tyrrell Hatton in solo fourth on eight-under par.
I've been working on my game, trying to find the form that I've found in the past.Jamie Donaldson
Rory McIlroy shot a bogey-free 65 for seven-under par, a score matched by his Ryder Cup partner Thomas Pieters of Belgium. They are amongst a group of five players three off the lead.
Behind them, evergreen Miguel Angel Jimenez is on six-under, alongside British Masters winner Paul Dunne amongst others, while Sergio Garcia, Andy Sullivan and Thorbjorn Olesen are amongst a group of 11 players on five-under.
Martin Kaymer and Ian Poulter are in the group on four-under par while last week's Abu Dhabi winner Tommy Fleetwood shot three-under in his opening round.
Donaldson, now 2000/1 to win the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, was understandably thrilled with his opening round.
"I'm stood here at ten under which I'm very happy with," he said.
"I had tennis elbow for a year and a half, that wasn't very nice, but you've just got to try and play through these things. I took three months off at the end of 2016 trying to get myself right and it didn't work. Now it's gone, I feel fully fit.
"I've been working on my game, trying to find the form that I've found in the past. Everything worked perfectly today."
McIlroy is 11/4 to win this week in Dubai, while Pieters is available at 2000/1.
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