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Westwood dominates opening round in Dubai

Press Association logoPress Association 17/11/2016

Lee Westwood produced the perfect response to his World Cup disappointment as defending champion Rory McIlroy carded his worst ever round in the World Tour Championship.

McIlroy has won the European Tour's season-finale twice and never finished worse than 11th in seven appearances at Jumeirah Golf Estates, with a 72 in 2010 his worst score in 28 rounds.

However, the world No.2 could only manage an opening 75 on Thursday to lie joint 55th in the 60-man field, nine shots behind Ryder Cup teammate Westwood.

It took McIlroy 14 holes to register his first birdie of the day and although he swiftly added another on the next, the four-time major winner double-bogeyed the 16th after needing two attempts - the second minus his right shoe and sock - to play from the edge of a water hazard.

In contrast, Westwood carded seven birdies and just one bogey to match his opening 66 in the inaugural event in 2009, which he went on to win by six shots to become European No.1 for the second time.

"That's certainly in the top two or three performances in my career," Westwood said.

"Maybe even the best performance of my career, knowing that I needed to win to beat Rory in the Race to Dubai, and did that by six and pretty much dominated the field over the weekend.

"Today was as good as I've played for quite some time. I've found a couple of keys in different parts of my game and I've been working on them hard and it all came together."

Westwood's former Ryder Cup partner Nicolas Colsaerts and France's Julien Quesne shared second place on five under, with Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari and Joost Luiten a shot further back.

Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson, who has a lead of 299,675 points over Willett, managed just one birdie in an opening 72, with Willett and Alex Noren both one shot better off.

Australia's Marcus Fraser is also in contention at three-under, three shots back from Westwood.

The 38-year-old Australian had it to four-under before making back-to-back birdies on the par-four 16th and par-three 17th holes before making birdie at the par-five 18th.

He is joined at three-under by 2010 Open champion Louis Oozthuizen, while fellow Australian Scott Hend is in a tie for 33rd after an even-par 70.

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