McIlroy looms large as Lorenzo-Vera leads in Dubai

By Sports Desk November 21, 2019

Rory McIlroy shot 64 but could not keep an unwell Mike Lorenzo-Vera off top spot as the Frenchman carded the lowest opening round in the history of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

World number two McIlroy, a two-time champion at Jumeirah Golf Estates, closed Thursday's play one stroke behind Lorenzo-Vera.

The pair turned in well-matched scorecards, each showing an eagle and a solitary dropped shot, but the four-time major winner sunk one birdie fewer than his rival. 

With former rugby player Niall O'Connor acting as his caddie, McIlroy went out in 31 but saved the best until last.

On the 18th hole, he nailed a stunning approach to within three feet and holed the subsequent eagle putt to conclude an excellent round.

Still it was shy of Lorenzo-Vera's effort, the world number 96 overcoming illness to earn himself a slice of history with an unmatched opening 18 holes to sit nine under.

"Honestly, I'm not feeling well at all," said Lorenzo-Vera, who has never won on the European Tour. "I have no energy. I had a big lung infection in South Africa and a big treatment and really feel bad on top of that.

"I felt that if I really relaxed a lot, just swing it like 70 per cent or maybe less, the ball was still flying pretty well. Try to be pretty clever and not too aggressive and then the putter got hot. So that worked."

Race to Dubai leader Bernd Wiesberger went round in 70 and is still projected to take the top prize based on day-one standings.

His closest rival for that honour at the start of the week, Tommy Fleetwood, dropped a couple of shots on the back nine to sign for a five-under-par 67.

Of the three other names in with a chance, Jon Rahm fared best as he got to six under, but Matt Fitzpatrick's 71 and The Open champion Shane Lowry's 73 are likely to have ended their hopes.

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    The American moved into a one-shot lead from Cameron Champ and Scottie Scheffler after a five-under 65 left him at nine under for the tournament following round three.

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    Asked what will be different about the previous times he has led or co-led a major, Johnson replied: "I was definitely younger. I have been out here a while now.

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    Champ is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour and is leading the driving average off the tee in 2020.

    The 25-year-old said he is comfortable being at the top of leaderboards and is ready to embrace any nerves that come on Sunday.

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    "Obviously this is a major…I'm sure there will be a little bit of nerves at some point throughout the round, but again, that's part of it."

    Scheffler, who matched Johnson's 65, is aiming to become the first player since Keegan Bradley in 2011 to win the PGA Championship on his tournament debut.

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    "I did a good job of that today just staying in the right frame of mind, hitting good, positive swings and made some nice birdies."

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    Back-to-back champion Koepka (69) picked up two shots over the final three holes to recover from a potentially damaging run of three straight bogeys.

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    Tiger Woods fell well out of contention after carding a two-over 72 for the second successive round.

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