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McIlroy shares 6-way lead at Dubai Desert Classic

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland opened the defense of his Dubai Desert Classic title with a 4-under 68 Thursday to share a six-way lead.

Also shooting a 68 at Emirates Golf Club were Alexander Noren, Charl Schwartzel, Jeev Milkha Singh, Edoardo Molinari and Stephen Dodd.

Noren and Schwartzel played early when a sandstorm was blowing in from the nearby desert.

"These were the toughest conditions I have ever seen at the Emirates," Schwartzel said. "It was not just the wind blowing, but the lack of visibility caused by the sand in it."

Tom Watson shot a 73 at his first tournament in Dubai.

"I missed two or three very short putts in my opening holes," Watson said.

While only 12 of 66 players broke par before lunch, 20 players did in the afternoon when the wind died down.