South Africa’s Richard Sterne came to within a shot of the 19-year-old course record at the Majlis course of the Emirates Golf Club on Thursday to lead the Dubai Desert Classic with a brilliant opening-round 10-under 62.
Sterne made the most of the ideal playing conditions in the morning.
After making 10 birdies in his first 16 holes, he parred his last two to fall one short of his compatriot Ernie Els’ effort of 61 way back in 1994, but it helped him take a one-shot lead over Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher, who made two eagles and seven birdies in his 63.
European Tour Race to Dubai leader Scott Jamieson, Chris Doak and Tommy Fleetwood were tied third at seven-under 65, while Paul Casey and Matteo Manassero were among six players tied for sixth place on 66.
As many as 94 players submitted sub-par cards in the 132-man field.
Former world No. 1 Lee Westwood of England felt his decision to shift his residence to Florida was vindicated when he started his season with a bogey-free round of five-under 67, although it still left him five shots off the pace.
World No. 14 Sergio Garcia was one behind Westwood on 68, while defending champion Rafael Cabrera-Bello started his campaign with a 69.
Sterne, playing his first tournament of the season, made 10 birdies in a flawless round.
The world No. 165, whose career was almost derailed by back injuries a couple of years ago, said: “It’s as good a start as I could have hoped for.”
“These guys these days, the depth is so much more than it used to be. The field is not as strong as it always is here, which I suppose is a good thing, but the guys can still play,” he said. “So, just put three more solid rounds together and hopefully come Sunday, that’s enough.”
Gallacher obviously loves the golf course. Last year, he made a hole-in-one, his third career ace, and all have come in Dubai.
“I finished second last year and had a couple [of] top 10s. So yeah, I like the course, it suits my eye,” the 39-year-old Scotsman said. “Some great conditions as well and the greens are there for holing putts. It wasn’t too windy this morning.”