Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 26th January 2023: Thomas Pieters took the early lead while World Number One Rory McIlroy recovered from a slow start before play was suspended due to fading light as the 2023 Hero Dubai Desert Classic got underway at Emirates Golf Club on Thursday.
With the venue closed to spectators due to adverse weather conditions, heavy overnight rainfall in Dubai saw the start of the Rolex Series event delayed by just over six hours with play commencing at 01.15 local time.
On the Majlis Course, Belgium’s Pieters fired a stunning five-under par after 15 holes, including six birdies and a bogey to sit at the top. Pieters tops the leaderboard with six players following closely behind on four-under par, including Tommy Fleetwood and Victor Perez, who won in Abu Dhabi last week.
World Number One, Rory McIlroy got off to a difficult start with two bogeys in his first six holes, but responded with four birdies to sit three shots off the lead. The Northern Irishman will close out the remaining three holes to complete his first round of Friday.
Play will restart at 08.00 on Friday morning, while the second wave will start their first rounds from 08.20.
Describing the difficult conditions on the course, Pieters said: “I think it played fair. Obviously they guarded against some of the conditions, and they moved a few tees forward on holes like hole 12, where you normally are hitting long irons, and you're hitting short wedges. If you found fairways and had ball-in-hand, it was definitely playable.
“Tomorrow, I want to try to do the same thing. If I can finish with three pars, I'll have a very nice opening round.”
Organisers have announced that the tournament will welcome spectators for the second day of the event to watch the action live.
Simon Corkill, Executive Tournament Director of Hero Dubai Desert Classic said: “We are delighted to be able to start play today on the first day of the tournament albeit with a delay caused by the adverse weather faced on site over the last few days.”
“Thanks to the fantastic work by the groundstaff, we are thrilled to welcome all spectators for Friday’s play from 07:00 so they can enjoy the world-class golf."
There will be no public parking available at the Emirates Golf Club with organisers advising people to use the Dubai Metro service with Al Khail Station located just in front of the club’s entrance. Alternatively, RTA and Careem taxis will have a drop-off point outside the club with Careem offering discounted fares to and from Emirates Golf Club with the Code DDC23.
For the latest updates on site access and play, visit the Hero Dubai Desert Classic’s social media platforms @dubaidcgolf.