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  • Dubai Desert Classic, Round One

Wasteful Westwood slips off the pace as McIlroy lurks

ESPN staff
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Lee Westwood plays from the edge of the fairway © Getty Images
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Lee Westwood was left to rue a woeful putting display as he failed to keep pace with the frontrunners on the opening day of the Dubai Desert Classic, but Rory McIlroy put himself firmly in the hunt with an opening-round 66.

Having reached the turn in level-par, McIlroy was some way down the field, but the US Open champion produced a blistering back nine to fire himself up to six-under, three shots behind leader Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

After six straight pars, McIlroy dropped a shot at the seventh, but reached the turn in par after a birdie at the ninth, and it was on the back nine that his round caught fire, with back-to-back birdies to see him begin his charge up the leaderboard.

Narrowly missing out on a hole-in-one at the 15th, McIlroy putted for a sixth birdie in seven holes, before finishing with a flourish - a birdie at the last to sign for a 66 - level with world No. 4 Martin Kaymer, who moved to six-under after an eagle at the 18th.

Starting his round on the back nine, Westwood got off the mark at the 13th after three opening pars, and back-to-back birdies at 17 and 18 saw the Englishman reach the turn in 34. However, his short game left much to be desired as he saw a series of opportunities pass him by.

Westwood had an eagle opportunity on the third, but three-putted for par. He then bogied the 188-yard par-three fourth after leaving a chip short of the green, but he atoned immediately, hitting his approach within three feet of the flag for a birdie at the fifth to sign for a 69.

Cabrera-Bello also started his round at the tenth, but unlike Westwood the Spaniard got off to a blistering start, picking up seven birdies to reach the turn in 30. He threatened to run away with the lead with another two birdies at the first and second, but a string of seven pars slowed his progress as he set the pace with an opening round of 63.

Cabrera-Bello is two strokes clear of Marcel Siem and Scotland's Scott Jamieson on seven-under. Siem's sole bogey came after finding the water on the final hole, and while Jamieson sunk fewer birdies, a superb eagle at the 13th saw him finish the day level with the German.

Thomas Bjorn is alongide McIlroy on six-under, while Englishman Simon Khan is one stroke ahead of Westwood after an opening round 68. Qatar Masters champion Paul Lawrie, who was playing alongside Westwood, and was on track to finish the day level with the former world No. 1, only for a double-bogey six at the last as he was forced to settle for a 71.

Defending champion Alvaro Quiros is one shot behind Westwood on two-under, joined by Miguel Angel Jimenez and Fred Couples, and youngster Tom Lewis, who opened his Dubai account with four birdies and two birdies.

The shot of the day belonged to Scotland's Stephen Gallacher, who bagged a hole-in-one at the 185-yard 15th. He sits at three-under alongside Westwood and Edoardo Molinari.

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