Dubai, United Arab Emirates: England’s Andy Sullivan rode a hot putter to a course-record 11 under par 61 to open up a two stroke lead after day one of the inaugural Golf in Dubai Championship presented by DP World.
Sullivan, who won the English Championship in August, went out in 30 and came home in 31 on a day of low scoring at Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Fire course to sit ahead of compatriots Matt Wallace and Ross Fisher and France’s Antoine Rozner.
Scottish duo Marc Warren and Craig Howie sit on eight under par alongside Sweden’s Oscar Lengden after firing 64s to lie three behind Sullivan while a group of four players posted a seven under par 65.
“I changed my putting routine yesterday and it’s helped me trust my instincts more, which really helped as the putter was extremely hot today,” said Sullivan, who used the break in the schedule during the pandemic to re-assess his outlook.
“Covid really changed everything for me - I had time to sit down and reflect on how I was being on the golf course. I could think about what I wanted from the game and where I wanted to go with it. I refocused and started enjoying it again. I’ve started to play a lot better. Going out there and enjoying it, I know I’m giving myself the best chance to shoot a low score.”
For Wallace, his round was a result of detailed preparation as he opened with an under-par score for the sixth consecutive event.
“My preparation has been the same for a long time now and I prepare as well as I possibly can to be ready to shoot those scores,” said Wallace. “Conditions were scoreable as it got hot so the ball travels a long way and the greens are perfect – but it’s still not easy.”
Rozner has been in superb form of late, carding just one over-par round in his last four starts, and he was delighted with his day’s work.
“I think it’s my best round of the year for sure,” said the Frenchman. “I have been playing well over the last few weeks but I couldn’t really put anything together in the same round, but I think I did that very well today.
Fisher has posted three top tens this season – all of them coming in the Middle East at the start of the year – and he’s delighted to have turned a corner.
“I feel like my game has been there recently, but I haven’t been able to find it,” said Fisher, who turned 40 last week. “I’ve hit the ball well for a long time, worked hard on my putting and my short game - but it hadn’t clicked for some reason and it has been frustrating. It’s not through the want of trying and I feel like it’s in there and so I’m delighted to come out here and start like this.”
Two-time Major champion Martin Kaymer shot a 66 to sit in a large group on six under par which includes Robert MacIntyre, winner of the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown three weeks ago.
Former Omega Dubai Desert Classic winners Danny Willett and Haotong Li both opened with a 67, and so too did 2016 Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters.