Rory McIlroy leads DP World Tour Championship, Race to Dubai leader Collin Morikawa starts strongly
Rory McIlroy holds a two-shot lead as he chases a third victory of the European Tour's season finale; Race to Dubai leader Collin Morikawa three back and in pole position to end as European No 1 - watch live throughout the week on Sky Sports Golf
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 20/11/21 1:39pm
Rory McIlroy moved into the early lead at the DP World Tour Championship, while Collin Morikawa made a strong start to his bid for Race to Dubai victory.
McIlroy mixed eight birdies with a lone bogey on his way to an opening-round 65 at Jumeriah Golf Estates, lifting him to seven under and two ahead of Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Tapio Pulkkanen and last week's AVIV Dubai Championship winner Joachim B Hansen.
Even a victory wouldn't be enough for McIlroy, 20th in the standings, to win the Race to Dubai for a fourth time, while Morikawa - starting the week with a 236-point advantage - bolstered his hopes of becoming the first American to top the rankings after a four-under 68.
Tyrrell Hatton, defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Paul Casey - among the six players who can still win the Race to Dubai - all sit in the group on two under, while Billy Horschel, Morikawa's closest rival, struggled to a two-over 74 to leave him tied-45th in the 53-man field.
Playing alongside Dean Burmester, McIlroy followed a 20-foot birdie at the first by producing an impressive approach into the par-five second and rolling in a 12-footer for eagle.
The Northern Irishman fired his approach at the fifth to tap-in range and made a two-putt birdie at the par-five seventh, before holing from 15 feet at the next to go six under after just eight holes.
McIlroy responded to a bogey at the ninth by converting from five feet at the next, with the four-time major winner scrambling for a couple of par-saves on his back nine before then signing off his round by taking advantage of the par-five last.
Morikawa threatened McIlroy's clubhouse target after three birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine took him to within two of the lead, only for him to post a three-putt bogey at the par-three 17th and then fail to bounce back on the final hole.
The world No 2 is joined in a strong contingent three behind by Sergio Garcia, playing on a special exemption, while Robert MacIntyre, Marcus Armitage and former world No 1 Martin Kaymer are among the other players on four under.
Fitzpatrick - who can still snatch Race to Dubai victory with a win this week - was within four of the lead until a final-hole bogey, with Tommy Fleetwood and American Will Zalatoris also opening with a two-under 70.
Min Woo Lee, fifth in the standings, joined Patrick Reed in carding a level-par 72, while Ian Poulter and British Masters champion Richard Bland are eight off the lead in a share of 40th place.
Watch the DP World Tour Championship throughout the week live on Sky Sports Golf. Live action continues Friday with Featured Groups from 5am, ahead of full coverage from 7am.