Rory McIlroy made a storming start to the Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday, bagging eight birdies en route to a seven under 65 and a two stroke first round lead in the European Tour event.

Tiger Woods, meanwhile, came off a distinct third best to Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer as the world's top three golfers shared each other's company, carding a 71, two strokes more than his two rivals. Sergio Garcia continued his revival with a 67 to share second place with Thomas Aiken of South Africa followed by six players tied for third on four under. In perfect playing conditions at the Emirates Golf Club's Majlis Course, McIlroy, starting at the 10th, went out in four under 33 with birdies at 13, 15, 17 and 18.

When he picked up three more shots at the first, second and third he had managed seven birdies in nine holes and led the tournament by three shots. McIlroy missed a four-footer for another birdie at the sixth and then three-putted on the par-three seventh for the only blemish on his card. The Irishman hit an exquisite approach to five feet at the eighth and made the putt to get back to seven under and then completed a fine day's work with a regulation par at the ninth.

Jeev Milkha Singh had three birdies on the last six holes to bring home a two-under 70 that placed him at tied 19th. — Agencies

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