DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Top-ranked Rory McIlroy returned from a six-week absence to shoot a 6-under 66 for a share of the lead on the first day of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship on Thursday.
McIlroy birdied four of his opening five holes and then two of the last four to join Irishman Shane Lowry at the top of the leaderboard at the Earth Course at Jumeriah Estates Resort.
''The way I played it should have been five birdies in the first five holes,'' he said. ''It was a great way to start. You never expect to start like that, but I've been hitting the ball well for the last couple of weeks that I've been practicing and it was just a matter of trying to take that good range play on to the course, and I was able to do that today, which I'm really happy about.''
McIlroy has been in Dubai for the better part of two weeks after electing not to contest any of the opening three events on the Tour's Final Four Series.
He played in the Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda but his Dubai round is a first competitive effort on tour since shooting a final round 68 for a share of second place last month in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
''I played the two days at the PGA Grand Slam but I wouldn't really call that competitive,'' he said. ''So the last shot that I hit was St. Andrews I guess, was my last competitive shot. So I was really looking forward to just getting out there and feeling what it was like again. Yeah, I was excited.''
Lowry arrived in Dubai fresh off the disappointment of finishing in 25th place in last week's Turkish Airlines Open. Ranked No. 52, the Dubliner is hoping to finish inside the top 50 and with an exemption to enter all four majors in 2015.
''Last Sunday was a very difficult day for me as for the last 12 holes I couldn't wait to get off the golf course and come here to Dubai,'' he said. ''Once I got here on Monday, I was fine as I had put myself into contention which is a positive I can look at from last week.''
Scotland's Richie Ramsay and Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen share third place after rounds of 67.