Allenby in the groove in Dubai
Dubai - Australia's Robert Allenby reaped a rich reward for switching early to the new grooves as he shot a brilliant round of seven-under par 65 on Thursday to establish a course record and take an early lead in the 7.5 million dollar Dubai World Championship.
The 38-year-old, ranked 29th in the world and 22nd in the Race to Dubai, came to the season-closing tournament with a brand-new set of clubs which conform to the new V' grooves, but an eight-birdie round proved he was right into the groove.
There was plenty of excitement in the concurrent Race to Dubai as well.
After being neck and neck for 14 holes, leader Rory McIlroy was temporarily left behind by No.2 Lee Westwood, who made seven birdies in his last 12 holes to finish at six-under par 66.
That gave Westwood the shared second place along with compatriot Chris Wood and Colombian Camilo Villegas.
McIlroy finished the day two shots behind Westwood at four-under 68, tied for the fifth place with twice Open champion Padraig Harrington, the resurgent Adam Scott, China's Liang Wenchong and South African Thomas Aiken.
Allenby, who hit 17 greens in regulation, started the day with a birdie and his only blemish on the day was on the par-5 14th, where he made his only bogey.
"It was nice. I played well. I hit the ball very well tee to green and just sort of cruised around. I think I only missed one green, which was the 17th, and I was just in between clubs there," said Allenby, who finished third in the Volvo World Matchplay and sixth in Castello Masters last month.
The new grooves rule comes into effect from January next year, but Allenby decided not to wait that long.
"Well, I only just got the clubs last week and I hit them once on the range and I was like, oh, will I or won't I?
"And then I just left them in the box until Sunday afternoon. I thought, oh heck, I'll get them out and hit them again. I really liked the way they felt and I really liked the way the ball was coming off the face," said Allenby.
Westwood also made just one bogey - on the par-5 14th, and missed a 10-footer putt on the final hole to be denied a place on top of the leaderboard alongside Allenby.
"Well, it was very solid stuff. I didn't make anything over the first six holes, and was really patient because I knew the way I was hitting it, there were birdies for me. So that's exactly what I did," said Westwood, who holed a 40-footer birdie putt on the 17th to go to six-under.
Leading first-round scores:
65 Robert Allenby (Australia)
66 Camilo Villegas (Colombia) Lee Westwood (Britain) Chris Wood (Britain)
68 Thomas Aiken (South Africa) Padraig Harrington (Ireland) Liang Wenchong (China) Rory McIlroy (Britain) Adam Scott (Australia)
69 Nick Dougherty (Britain) Johan Edfors (Sweden) Retief Goosen (South Africa) Alvaro Quiros (Spain)
70 Bradley Dredge (Britain) Simon Dyson (Britain) Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spain) Raphael Jacquelin (France) Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand) Alexander Noren (Sweden) Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) Jeev Milkha Singh (India)
71 Gregory Bourdy (France) Rafael Cabrera (Spain) Sergio Garcia (Spain) Martin Kaymer (Germany) Peter Lawrie (Ireland) Gareth Maybin (Britain) Ross McGowan (Britain) Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa) Ian Poulter (Britain) Henrik Stenson (Sweden) Anthony Wall (Britain) Oliver Wilson (Britain)