Dubai, United Arab Emirates (SportsNetwork.com) - Bernd Wiesberger used a string of birdies down the stretch on Thursday to shoot a first-round, 8-under 64 and he holds a 1-shot lead in front of some big names at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Wiesberger has won two times in his career on the European Tour, both of which came in 2012 at the Ballantine's Championship and the Lyoness Open. The 29- year-old also played his way into the final pairing at last year's PGA Championship, where he wound up finishing tied for 15th.
"It feels good right now," said Wiesberger. "I feel quite happy with what I expect out of my game. When I'm in trouble, I know I can scramble well, which is the part you don't see right now because I'm hitting the ball quite nicely."
Lee Westwood, a 23-time winner on tour, finished the first round with a 7- under 65 on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club and he is tied for second with this year's South African Open Championship winner Andy Sullivan, American Peter Uihlein and Nicolas Colsaerts.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the 2009 champion, is just two shots back of the leader Wiesberger. McIlroy is tied for sixth at 6-under 66 with two-time defending champion and fellow European Ryder Cup team member Stephen Gallacher, Maximilian Kieffer, Anders Hansen, Seve Benson, Hennie Otto and Marc Warren.
After his collapse at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship two weeks ago, Martin Kaymer rebounded with a 5-under 67 and he is tied for 13th with six others.
Wiesberger got off to a neutral start when he made par on his first five holes from No. 1 before rolling in his first gain of the day on No. 6. Following a pair of pars on seven and eight, Wiesberger drained another birdie on No. 9 and followed that up with his second straight gain on the par-5 10th.
The best was still yet to come for Wiesberger. After making pars on 11 and 12, the Austrian rattled off five straight birdies from No. 13 to come from out of nowhere and take the lead. Wiesberger finished up with a par to finish alone atop the leaderboard after day one.
"It was a solid back nine I have to say," Wiesberger stated. "I got on a run at the end and could have birdied my last six holes there. Once I got the pace right on the greens, which were a bit slower than I expected, it went nicely."
Westwood, beginning his day on the back nine, started off with a birdie at the 10th before making four straight pars from 11. Westwood then made birdie on three of his next six holes on 15, 17 and one.
A trio of pars from two preceded Westwood's fifth birdie on five, and three holes later the Englishman ran off back-to-back birdies on eight and nine to end on a high note.
Sullivan continued his strong play early on this season as he made three birdies over his first five holes on 10, 13 and 14. Sullivan finished up his opening nine with an eagle on the par-5 18th and proceeded to make birdies on one and three after the turn. Sullivan concluded his first round with six straight pars from four.
Uihlein exploded out of the gate with a trio of birdies from No. 1 and he later made five birdies in a seven-hole span from No. 7, giving him the outright lead at minus-8. Down the stretch Uihlein tripped to his only bogey on No. 17 to fall back to 7-under and he finished up with a par at the last.
Colsaerts also had a strong start to his round with five birdies on his front nine on 11, 12, 13, 15 and 18. The Belgian continued his run around the turn with three more gains on one, three and seven, but a bogey on nine also saw Colsaerts fall back to 7-under at the end of the round.
McIlroy, who finished alone in second at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship two weeks ago, is playing in his second event of the season and showed little to no rust on Thursday. McIlroy started off with gains on his first two holes on 10 and 11. After six straight pars from 12, McIlroy made the turn with a birdie on the par-5 18th.
The Ulsterman birdied four more on his closing nine at three, five, six and eight, but a bogey on nine dropped him back to minus-6 and he trails by two shots along with six others.
"I'd be disappointed if I didn't shoot anything below 68 today, especially with the conditions and 66 is a nice start," McIlroy said. "I'd like to see it blow a little bit and make it more of a challenging golf course, you still need to hit the shots but it would be nice to play in some conditions that are a little different than this."
NOTES: In two events this season, Wiesberger has finished tied for sixth in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago and he also ended in third at last week's Qatar Masters ... Gallacher has three career victories, with two coming at this event the last two seasons ... Dating back to last season, McIlroy has finished inside the top 10 in six straight events and 10 of his last 11, including a stretch of three straight victories at the British Open, WGC- Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship ... His win here in 2009 was McIlroy's first professional victory ... Louis Oosthuizen withdrew with a back injury prior to starting the first round and he was replaced in the field by Jason Barnes.