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Rory McIlroy recovered from a slow start to lie just two strokes off the lead after the first round at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The Northern Irishman had a nightmare start which could have been worse had he not holed from 15 feet to salvage a bogey from his first hole.
The world number three repeated the trick on the second, scrambling well to ensure he dropped just one shot to leave him plus two.
However, McIlroy clicked into gear, grabbing six birdies over the remainder of the round without dropping another stroke, signing for a round of four-under-par, two behind clubhouse leader Alex Noren.
“I thought I did well considering the start and some of the shots I hit throughout the round," McIlroy told Sky Sports.
"I felt like 68 was probably a fair reflection of how I played. It wasn't the best way to start, bogeying a par five, and the bogey I made on the second hole, which is a birdie hole out here... but to bounce back and to birdie some of the tougher holes on the course, I was really pleased with that.
“And when I got myself out of position I was able to get back in play and make my pars
"I don't feel I could have really gone any lower than that but at the same time I gave myself enough chances to make some birdies.
“All in all it was a decent day, a decent score, especially looking at the conditions this afternoon; it looks like it's going to be quite tricky out there."
Sweden’s Noren fired six birdies without any dropped shots to lead Trevor Fisher Jr, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Brett Rumford by a shot.
Graeme McDowell enjoyed a solid start to finish on minus three while compatriot Darren Clarke led the field before dropping five shots in his final five holes to sign for a one-under 71.