Day One in Dubai: Birdies Galore, McIlroy on Song
By Conor Nagle under European PGA Tour

Rafa Cabrera-Bello on Emirates' eighth tee.

With the dust storms of Qatar but a distant and unpleasant memory, the cream of the European Tour descended on a defenceless Emirates Golf Club this morning for the first round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

While 76 players negotiates the 7,300-yard layout in fewer than 72 shots on Thursday, it was Rafael Cabrera-Bello – brother of Ladies European Tour member Emma Cabrera-Bello – who took fullest advantage of the benign conditions.

The Spaniard, whose sole European Tour victory came at the 2009 Austrian Open, blazed through the turn with a run a five consecutive birdies that took him to nine-under-par for the round through 11 holes.

Though within sight of a place in the record books, the 27-year-old could only muster an aggregate total of level-par for the final six holes of the more challenging front nine.

Cabrera-Bello’s 63, though exceptional, only succeeded in extracting a two-shot lead from a highly competitive field.

WUP favourite Marcel Siem and Scott Jamieson both carded 65s, while no fewer than seven players, including pre-tournament favourites Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, both of whom raced to the clubhouse in 31 shots, ensured that a five-under-par round of 67 wouldn’t even be enough for a place in the top-ten at day’s end.

Former US Amateur champion Peter Uihlein endured another disappointing day on the links, meandering his way to a 75 and a place at the tail-end of the leaderboard.

Conor Nagle