Tracker: McIlroy takes early Dubai lead; Tiger fires 68

Tiger Woods (68) and Rory McIlroy (63) combined for 11 birdies and an eagle on Thursday at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Talk about living up to the hype.

The pairing of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy - as well as defending champ Stephen Gallacher - combined to go 19 under on Thursday in the first round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, led by McIlroy's 9-under 63 that gave him the early tournament lead.

Woods fired a bogey-free, 4-under 68 that included four birdies on his outgoing nine, finishing with nine consecutive pars. Gallacher was three back of McIlroy after a 6-under 66 that included a short eagle on No. 18.

Woods is making his seventh appearance at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the most of any European Tour event.

There is plenty of Round 1 action remaining, with Ernie Els among those playing this afternoon.

Take a look at how the round came to be for Woods and McIlroy:

• • •

No. 9: Par 4, 463 yards

Tiger's short game has saved him today, as his inconsistent play off the tee could have made this round much worse.

Off the tee: Tiger uses fairway metal here and pounds it down the left side, while McIlroy also uses less-than-driver and finds the center of the fairway.

Approach shot: Tiger takes dead aim at the pin and gets a bit unlucky with a hard bounce, but will have a 15-footer from the fringe for birdie. McIlroy has the shortest distance to the hole, but hits a poor shot that leaks out to the left, finds the green but leaves him with at least 35 feet for birdie.

On the green: Tiger's birdie attempt narrowly slides by on the right and he closes out a 4-under 68 with nine consecutive pars. McIlroy's birdie attempt comes up short, but knocks in a 2-footer for a 9-under 63.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 9 under; Tiger, 4 under

• • •

No. 8: Par 4, 459 yards

Tiger hasn't birdied a hole since the par-5 18th, running off seven consecutive pars, allowing McIlroy to take early control of this tournament.

Off the tee: Tiger takes driver here and splits the fairway. Could use a birdie or two to close the gap with McIlroy before the end of the round. McIlroy takes driver and finds the left side of the fairway.

Approach shot: Tiger's not happy about this swing, pushing the ball to the right. He is on the putting surface, but about 50 feet right of the cup. McIlroy finds a greenside bunker after trying to attack the pin tucked on the left side.

Around the green: Brilliant bunker shot by McIlroy settles less than a foot from the cup, allowing him to save par.

On the green: Nice birdie attempt by Tiger here, who sends it about 18 inches past the cup for a simple par, his eighth in a row.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 9 under; Tiger, 4 under

• • •

No. 7: Par 3, 186 yards

The Emirates GC features three par-3s that are at least 186 yards, with No. 7 actually the second-shortest on the course.

Off the tee: There have been 11 birdies thus far on the 7th hole, and Tiger is the only one to hold the green here, giving himself about 25 feet from under the hole. McIlroy's tee ball rolls off the green to the right.

On the green: Well, from just off the green, McIlroy uses putter and finds the bottom of the hole to move back into the solo lead at 9 under. Tiger's birdie attempt runs past on the left and he settles for a par and is now five back of his playing competitor.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 9 under; Tiger, 4 under

• • •

No. 6: Par 4, 485 yards

While 15-to-18-footers are not automatics, McIlroy and Tiger both had good chances on No. 5 to get further into the red, but left their putts out to the left. McIlroy continues to lead by a shot over Julien Quesne.

Off the tee: Both take driver at the long par 4, with McIlroy looking very fluid and finding the center of the fairway. Tiger follows and finds the right rough.

Approach shot: From 185 yards, Tiger has to muscle it out of the deep rough and sends it left, causing a "Fore!" yell to the gallery. Will be a tough up-and-down. Meanwhile, from 170 yards, McIlroy takes dead aim at the pin and settles on the fringe, about 12 feet from the hole.

Around the green: Very well done by Tiger here, who gets his third shot to about 2 feet in front of the hole.

On the green: Easy par for Tiger here, while McIlroy hits his birdie putt a bit too firm and has to settle for a par as well. McIlroy has cooled slightly since his eagle on No. 3.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 8 under; Tiger, 4 under

• • •

No. 5: Par 4, 451 yards

Four of the final five holes for this group today will be stout par-4s that are all over 450 yards.

Off the tee: Fairway wood here for Tiger and he finds another fairway. McIlroy bombs it past Tiger's ball, also in the fairway.

Approach shot: Good second shot from Tiger, holding the green about 18 feet under the hole. McIlroy gets just inside of that at about 15 feet.

On the green: Moments after watching Stephen Gallacher chip in for birdie to move to 5 under, Tiger can't get his birdie putt to fall, going left of the cup and picking up par. McIlroy also goes left, burning the edge and he also pars.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 8 under; Tiger, 4 under

• • •

No. 4: Par 3, 191 yards

Rory McIlroy is definitely in a zone right now, as he can start thinking about the course record, which is a 61 by Ernie Els. He is 8 under with six holes remaining, while Tiger's solid 4 under is being overshadowed currently.

Off the tee: The par-3 4th is playing as the toughest hole today with only two birdies, but Tiger gives himself a good look at a third after settling about 12 feet behind the pin and just on the fringe. McIlroy's tee ball goes a bit left and into some fairway to the side of the green.

On the green: Another one that Tiger thought he had, but it cuts left at the last second and he settles for a par. McIlroy gets up-and-down from just off the green to remain one ahead of Julien Quesne.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 8 under; Tiger, 4 under

• • •

No. 3: Par 5, 568 yards

McIlroy is looking like the McIlroy of old, and has for the past few weeks. Seems calm and collected on the course, as does Woods. They are a combined 10 under through 11 holes. Talk about getting your money's worth.

Off the tee: Driver here for Tiger and he finally finds a fairway with the big stick. McIlroy also finds the middle of the fairway.

Second shot: Tiger uses fairway wood and takes a big rip, getting it very close to the green, but in a bunker. McIlroy hits a spectacular shot that stops about 10 feet behind the hole. He'll have that for eagle.

Around the green: Poor bunker shot here from Tiger, as he doesn't hit it firm enough and it barely holds the green. He'll have 15 feet for birdie.

On the green: Tiger plays his birdie putt too far to the left and settles for a disappointing par. Moments later, McIlroy drains his eagle putt and takes a two-shot lead.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 8 under; Tiger, 4 under

• • •

No. 2: Par 4, 351 yards

Tiger's solid putting today is keeping him near the lead, as he is struggling off the tee, hitting only three of eight fairways.

Off the tee: Driver here for both - a bit surprising since they can mash 3-wood - and McIlroy gets a good kick out of the right rough and into the fairway, while Tiger finds the deep left rough.

Approach shots: Both players give the hole a scare, as Tiger's second shot runs just past on the left and settles 8 feet past the cup, while McIlroy is 6 feet to the left of the hole.

On the green: Tiger thought he had this one, but it hits the right edge and rims out. Easy par, but he wants that one back. McIlroy converts on his birdie try, but still trails Julien Quesne by one.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 6 under; Tiger, 4 under

• • •

No. 1: Par 4, 458 yards

That was an impressive first nine holes for both Tiger and McIlroy, with the latter one shot back of the leader, Julien Quesne, at 5 under, while Tiger is two back with a bevy of others.

Off the tee: Driver for both Tiger and McIlroy here, with Tiger going left and into the rough, while McIlroy is in the middle of the fairway.

Approach shot: Tiger again has tree trouble and consults with a rules official to get some signage moved, then hits a creative shot through the trees that finds a greenside bunker. He really took his time thinking the shot through. Meanwhile, McIlroy hits a beautiful shot to pin-high and about 10 feet left of the hole.

Around the green: Tiger missed his fourth green in regulation on the day, but blasts out to about 5 feet to try and stay bogey free.

On the green: Tiger does manage another one-putt to stay two off the lead. He has only 13 putts through 10 holes. McIlroy lips out on the right side and settles for a disappointing par to remain one off the early lead.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 5 under; Tiger, 4 under

• • •

No. 18: Par 5, 564 yards

McIlroy and Tiger move to the third par 5 on the back nine, both battling for the early lead.

Off the tee: Driver here again for Tiger and he takes a big lash at it and finds the middle of the fairway. McIlroy does the same.

Second shot: Tiger has 230 yards left and uses long iron, clearing the water and finding the green, about 50 feet beyond the hole. McIlroy has only 190 yards in and also finds the green, just inside of Tiger's ball.

On the green: Tiger is aggressive on his eagle putt, sending it 6 feet past on the right. He played for more break than what was there. He does make the comebacker for his fourth birdie. McIlroy learns a lot from Tiger's eagle putt and nearly drains his, running just past on the left and tapping in for birdie to take the outright lead.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 5 under; Tiger, 4 under

• • •

No. 17: Par 4, 359 yards

Tiger and McIlroy are now a combined 7 under through seven holes.

Off the tee: The first short par 4 of the day and Tiger simply takes fairway wood and puts it in the left rough. McIlroy finds the middle of the fairway.

Approach shot: From a tough lie, Tiger hammers it out and finds the green, but will have 50 feet for birdie. McIlroy doesn't quite get enough carry, finding the green, but spinning back to about 25 feet.

On the green: Tiger is simply trying to get down in two here, as his birdie attempt runs 5 feet past. He brings in caddie Joe LaCava for some extra help on the read for par, and it pays off with a nice par save. McIlroy nearly has another long birdie putt drop, but it settles 3 inches to the left of the cup for a simple par.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 4 under; Tiger, 3 under

• • •

No. 16: Par 4, 425 yards

Tiger now has five one-putts through six holes to make his run to the top of the leaderboard.

Off the tee: Tiger takes the big stick here and tries to the cut the corner on the left, but finds more desert. McIlroy splits the fairway with driver.

Approach shot: McIlroy sends his ball right over the flag, settling 20 feet past the hole. Tiger has to navigate his ball through trees and clips one to leave the ball well short of the green.

Around the green: Tiger nearly holes out, running right over the right edge of the hole and settling 18 inches away from the cup.

On the green: McIlroy drains his long putt for his fourth birdie in five holes to jump into a tie for the lead with Julien Quesne, Richard Sterne and Tommy Fleetwood. Tiger taps in for his par.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 4 under; Tiger, 3 under

• • •

No. 15: Par 3, 190 yards

Through five holes, Tiger and McIlroy are a combined 5 under, giving the large following a show thus far. McIlroy now has the upper hand and shares the lead at 3 under with Richard Sterne.

Off the tee: McIlroy doesn't like his tee ball, although it does find the green, but is about 60 feet under the hole. Tiger poses over his, hitting a good tee shot to about 25 feet right of the hole.

On the green: Tiger drains his putt from long distance to jump into a tie for the early lead. Nice lag putt from McIlroy leaves him 3 feet for par, which he makes.

ON THE DAY: Tiger, 3 under; McIlroy, 3 under

• • •

No. 14: Par 4, 434 yards

Tiger is taking advantage of the par-5s thus far, and has three one-putts through four holes.

Off the tee: Another fairway wood here for Tiger, and another fairway hit. McIlroy follows suit.

Approach shot: Tiger doesn't like his second shot immediately, as he hooks it left and into a greenside bunker. McIlroy twirls his club quickly and sticks it to about 5 feet under the hole.

Around the green: Tiger gets a bit aggressive with his bunker shot, and then gets a bit lucky after it travels past the hole, hitting Stephen Gallacher's ball and stopping about 3 feet away from the hole.

On the green: McIlroy makes it three consecutive birdies after putting this one in the middle of the cup, while Tiger taps in for par.

ON THE DAY: McIlroy, 3 under; Tiger, 2 under

• • •

No. 13: Par 5, 550 yards

Tiger and McIlroy seem downright comfortable playing with each other, chatting it up often. Tiger is also sporting sunglasses on the course, which is a bit out of the norm for him.

Off the tee: Tiger goes with 3-wood here and finds the fairway, while McIlroy bombs a drive and is also in the short grass.

Second shot: Fairway metal here for Tiger and it comes up short, but is also helped by a rake that keeps it from going into a bunker. McIlroy needs only an iron into the green and lands it 30 feet past the pin.

Around the green: It might have been better for it to go into the bunker, as Tiger is left with a very awkward stance. Yet he manages to get it to about 10 feet under the hole for a look at birdie.

On the green: Tiger slides in his birdie attempt, catching the right edge for another par-5 birdie, something he didn't do last week at Torrey Pines. McIlroy's eagle attempt is on line, but comes up 18 inches short. He taps that in to match Tiger's birdie.

ON THE DAY: Tiger, 2 under; McIlroy, 2 under

• • •

No. 12: Par 4, 467 yards

Outside of Rory, Tiger has a couple of dear friends playing in the tournament, with Fred Couples and Mark O'Meara also teeing it up. Couples is also 1 under early in the round.

Off the tee: Both players are posing - but for the wrong reasons. Tiger hits his tee ball to the left and into the sand, while McIlroy pushes his ball to the right and into the sand. Both hit driver off the tee.

Approach shot: Tiger has trees to contend with, but manages to attack the green, only to spin the ball back off the fringe. McIlroy hits a great sand shot to about 15 feet left of the pin.

Around the green: Tiger plays a great chip that settles about 2 feet under the hole.

On the green: McIlroy reads his slight left-to-right birdie putt perfectly to post his first birdie and move into red figures. Tiger also cleans up his par.

ON THE DAY: Tiger, 1 under; McIlroy, 1 under

• • •

No. 11: Par 3, 169 yards

Quick start by Tiger there, who was in the worst shape off the tee, but used a nice wedge shot for an early birdie.

Off the tee: Solid tee ball from Tiger here, who lands it pin-high about about 20 feet left of the pin. McIlroy will have a similar distance, but from under the hole.

On the green: Tiger is firm with his birdie putt, sending it nearly 3 feet past after missing on the left of the hole, picking up a par. McIlroy hits the right edge and spins out, also settling for a par.

ON THE DAY: Tiger, 1 under; McIlroy, Even

Elsewhere on the course: Alvaro Quiros is hot out of the gate with three birdies in his opening four holes, including narrowly missing a 20-foot eagle try on the par-5 13th. He's two ahead of the field at the moment.

• • •

No. 10: Par 5, 549 yards

Tiger has a multi-color shirt on that includes a bit of grey, white and orange, while sporting black slacks, black shoes and a black hat. McIlroy has on bright blue pants and a white pullover.

Off the tee: McIlroy pounds his drive down the left side of the fairway, while Tiger misses the fairway to the left.

Second shot: Tiger is a bit blocked in the sand to the left, so he has to lay up and finds the right rough after getting a bit too much of it. Meanwhile, after a 316-yard drive that just found the edge of the rough, McIlroy goes over the green and into the rough. Nearly a spectacular shot after landing pin-high.

Approach shot: With wedge in hand, Tiger hits a fantastic shot to about 3 feet right of the cup.

On the green: Tiger calmly drains his birdie attempt to move into red figures quickly. Meanwhile, after a great chip to about 4 feet, McIlroy misses his birdie attempt for a disappointing par on his opening hole.

ON THE DAY: Tiger, 1 under; McIlroy, Even

• • •

Pre-tournament coverage

McIlroy, not Tiger, the favorite in Dubai

Tiger Woods' third-round 79 at the Farmers Insurance Open not only caught the eye of the golf public but also the Las Vegas oddsmakers, who have installed Rory McIlroy as the favorite to win this week's Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Tiger's stats show slow start over last 4 seasons

There are dozens of way to slice, dice and shake up Tiger Woods' data -- but here’s one though that shows he’s different than in years past: count just his first four tournaments of a calendar year.

• Tiger has yet to settle whether to play Match Play, agent says

Tiger Woods will not play in the upcoming WGC-Accenture Match Play, according to a report, though his agent told Golfweek on Wednesday afternoon that decision has yet to be finalized.

Welcome to Golfweek.com's comments section.
Please review the posting guidlines here: Golfweek.com Community Guidelines.
All accounts must be verified using Disqus email verification