Henrik Stenson enjoyed a near flawless opening day of the $8 million DP World Tour Championship on Thursday, marred only by a missed par putt from three feet on the final hole.
At the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates, the Swede shot a sublime four-under-par 68 to remain on course to become the new European No1, finishing as the best among the nine players in with a chance of winning the Race to Dubai this week.
Stenson was just two shots off the early pace set by Spaniard Alejandro Canizares, while Australia’s Marcus Fraser and Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat were tied second at five under par after shooting rounds of 67.
Welshman Jamie Donaldson, second last week at the Turkish Open and one of eight players who can still overtake Stenson, was tied alongside the Swede and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello at 68.
Race to Dubai No. 2 Justin Rose of England opened with a 70, No. 3 Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland was on level par, while No. 4 Ian Poulter of England started with a 69.Henrik Stenson is a Swedish professional golfer who plays both on the PGA and European Tours. He has spent over 100 weeks ranked in the World top ten and his career high ranking of third is the best by any Swedish golfer.
Stenson, England’s Justin Rose and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell can win the Race to Dubai if they triumph in this season finale. The Swede, the Race leader, sank three birdies in the opening seven holes and was steady on the back nine before three-putting on the final hole.
Rose finished two-under in a solid, if unspectacular, round as he dropped his first shot of the day on the 17th. McDowell rallied from three-over with successive birdies on holes 14 to 16 to end on par.
England’s Ian Poulter and Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who can also win the Race if they prevail here and Stenson finishes third or lower, scored 69 and 68 respectively. But the day belonged to Canizares, who matched McDowell’s birdie run and dropped just one shot all round to card 66.
Rory McIlroy sank birdies in three of the opening four holes as his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki looked on but could not sustain the momentum as he fired a one-under 71. “I feel like I played better than the score suggested,” he said.