Donald leads the way but McIlroy sits one back as top two target another Dubai battle
13:58 GMT, 22 November 2012
They’re ranked No 1 and 2 in the world and No 1 and tied second on the leaderboard after the first round of the DP World Tour Championship.
Twelve months after their wonderful duel for the Race to Dubai, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald are it again here in the Middle East.
Fresh from his win in Japan last week, world No 2 Donald shot a 65 for a one stroke lead over McIlroy, Scot Marc Warren and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
Out in front: Luke Donald is the leader after round one of the DP World Tour Championship
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‘There’s a long way to go, of course, but I think it would be fun for everyone if Rory and myself were to find ourselves in the final group on Sunday,’ said Donald.
‘I’d certainly welcome the challenge, that is for sure.’
There would be no Race to Dubai title on the line this time, of course – McIlroy has already sewn that one up – but Donald has his eye on winning this event and adding more gloss on a season that has seen him win three times already to make it eight victories over the last two and a half years.
‘I’d give this season a mark of eight out of 10,’ said Donald. ‘It is true that I didn’t play quite as I wanted at the majors but around them there are a lot of positives to take into next season.
'I’ve won a good number of tournaments over this stretch and I feel like I am in the finest form of my career.’
Sitting pretty: Rory McIlroy is just one behind Donald after the opening round
McIlroy came to the last needing a birdie four to ensure he would be playing with Donald on Friday and was a little miffed to miss out.
‘There’s always a nice buzz playing with Luke,’ he said. ‘We’re the two best-ranked players and he’s so tough to beat. But let’s hope we can keep playing well and so we’re playing together later in the tournament.’
There was a moment of levity in McIlroy’s press conference when his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki picked up the microphone.
‘Given the amazing support you’re getting out here this week, if you win can I expect a nice Christmas present,’ she said.
Support act: Caroline Wozniacki was there backing her boyfriend McIlroy
‘Don’t you get enough nice presents’ replied Rory.
‘How am I as a cheerleader’ asked Caroline.
‘You’re a better tennis player,’ said McIlroy.
There are plenty of good players in touch who are all intent on ensuring this isn’t just the Luke and Rory show.
Lee Westwood, who clinched both the Race to Dubai and this title here three years ago, is nicely in touch after a 67, the same mark as Padraig Harrington.
Right up there: Lee Westwood is just two shots off the pace after a 67 at the Earth Course
Two more Ryder Cup players, Justin Rose and Nicolas Colsaerts, shot 68, but Ian Poulter could only manage a 72 and, in typical black and white fashion, said he was disgusted with himself.
‘Finally hit the wall today, the jetlag has caught up with me,’ said Poults, who finished runner-up in Australia last week and won in China three weeks ago.