Donald Takes First-Round Lead in Dubai

Luke Donald fired a 7-under 65 to move to the top of the leaderboard after 18 holes of the DP World Tour Championship, the season-ender on the European Tour. The $8 million event started Thursday on the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.

Donald had nary an off-color mark on his scorecard. The 34-year-old Brit posted three birdies on the front nine and four more on the back to forge a one-stroke lead over Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Scotland's Marc Warren.

"It is a nice start and I felt very comfortable out there. Nice to pick up from where I left off last week in Japan," said Donald in reference to his victory in last week's Dunlop Phoenix Open on the Japan Golf Tour.

"You always feel different the week after winning. You just feel like you have that little extra pep in your step and there is a bit more confidence flowing. That middle section of the course from about five to 14, I really swung my clubs well and made a lot of nice putts."

Donald held golf's No. 1 ranking for 55 weeks between May 2011 and August 2012 before McIlroy took the top spot after winning his second major title in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Donald supplanted Tiger Woods at No. 2 following his Dunlop Phoenix Open win.

Six players posted 67s to take a share of fifth two strokes back of the leader. The group included No. 4-ranked Lee Westwood of England and sixth-ranked Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa along with Scotland's Richie Ramsay, German Martin Kaymer, Irishman Padraig Harrington, and Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed.

Nicolas Colsaerts, Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel are among another big group that opened with 68s. Branden Grace, a 24-year-old South African who's won four times this year, shot a 69. Angel Miguel Jimenez, who won last week's Hong Kong Open, opened with a 71.

McIlroy, who has already clinched the money-list titles on both the PGA and European tours - a feat first accomplished last year by Donald, admitted that it took him awhile to get going in the Dubai tournament with a lone birdie on the front nine. He warmed up on the home half with five more birdies.

"I got off to a little slow start even though I thought I was hitting the ball well enough to give myself opportunities for birdies. There's a lot of golf left to be played, but I am off to a good start and it would be great to emulate what Lee (Westwood) did a few years ago and won both the trophies.

"I really wanted to make a birdie on the last hole and play with Luke in the final group tomorrow," the 23-year-old added. "Wasn't able to do that today, but the way I am playing, I feel might have a chance to do that during the weekend."

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