Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Richard Sterne fired a 10-under 62 on Thursday to grab a 1-stroke lead after the opening round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
Sterne is a five-time winner on the European Tour, but hasn't won since capturing a pair of events in South Africa during the 2009 season.
Stephen Gallacher carded a 9-under 63 despite a pair of bogeys. He is looking for his first win since a playoff victory over Graeme McDowell at the 2004 Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.
Chris Doak, Scott Jamieson and Tommy Fleetwood share third place at minus-7 on the Majlis course at Emirates Golf Club. Paul Casey and Matteo Manassero are among six players tied for sixth at 6-under 66.
Sterne got off to a flying start with birdies on the 10th and 11th, then carded his third birdie at the par-5 13th. After a pair of pars, Sterne dropped in back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17.
The South African, who made just 10 starts combined in 2010 and 2011 due to a back injury, made it three in a row with a tap-in birdie at 18 to make the turn at minus-6.
Sterne birdie the second, then at the par-3 fourth, he rolled in an 8-footer for birdie to grab the lead. Sterne kicked in a three-footer for birdie at six and came right back with a 22-foot birdie effort at the seventh.
With a chance at matching or breaking Ernie Els' course record of 61, Sterne closed with a pair of pars to miss the record by one.
"I knew Ernie had shot 61 quite a while ago and always thought it would be impossible to get close, but I got as close as you could," Sterne stated. "I couldn't have asked for a better start really. I enjoy this golf course and it shows with the good score today. It's been a while since I've won -- it's just not that easy to do anymore."
Gallacher started his round with birdies at two and four. He holed out for eagle on the long par-4 sixth to jump to minus-4.
After a birdie on the ninth, Gallacher stumbled to bogeys at 10 and 11. He quickly got one stroke back with a birdie on No. 12.
Gallacher converted his second eagle of the day at the par-5 13th, moving him to 6-under. The Scotsman poured in three consecutive birdies from the 15th to climb within one of the lead, then parred the par-5 18th to end one back.
"It was a bizarre round. I chipped in, then three-putted from six feet, but I drove it great," Gallacher said. "My driver broke last week, but the new one is working well."
Mark O'Meara, the 2004 champion, and three-time runner-up Lee Westwood are among 10 players tied for 12th place at 5-under 67.
NOTES: Gallacher's 63 matched his career low round on tour ... Thomas Levet made his 500th career European Tour start and posted a 4-under 68, which left him tied for 22nd with Sergio Garcia and last week's winner Chris Wood among others.