Dubai - Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello made the most of perfect scoring conditions on the opening day of the $2.5 million Dubai Desert Classic and shot an impeccable round of nine-under par 63 to lead the tournament by two shots.
Cabrera-Bello, who teed off early in the morning, made nine birdies in his first 11 holes, and then parred his way in for a bogey-free 63. Germany's Marcel Siem and Scotland's Scott Jamieson were tied for second place at seven-under par 65.
The 2009 champion and world number 2 Rory McIlroy got over a slow start and after being one-over through eight holes, the Ulsterman reeled in seven birdies in his next 10 holes to close at a six-under par 66. Joining him in tied fourth place was the world number 4 Martin Kaymer, who eagled his final hole.
Also on 66 were 2001 champion Thomas Bjorn of Denmark, the big-hitting Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium, South Africa's Richard Sterne and the French duo of Gregory Bourdy and Romain Wattel.
Defending champion Alvaro Quiros opened with a two-under par 70, while world number 3 Lee Westwood of England was one shot better at 69.
In complete contrast to last week's Qatar Masters, which was reduced to 54 holes because of high winds, the players could not have asked for better conditions. There was hardly any wind throughout the day, and with the greens playing soft on the opening day, the course was there for the taking.
And nobody did that better than Cabrera-Bello. In fact, his start was so good that thoughts of a possible 59 did creep into his mind.
Cabrera-Bello, who shot a round of 11-under par 60 to win the 2009 Austrian Open by one shot, said: "It came through my mind for a second, not really the 60, but I was 9-under after 11, so I thought I can get to 59.
"But then, I quickly took it out of my mind as just a silly thought and told myself 'just play one shot at a time'. And I'm glad I stopped thinking about it."
The 27-year-old world number 119 said the closing stretch of seven pars after the roaring start, did not frustrate him one bit.
"No, not at all. I was aware that the last holes (he finished on the ninth) were tough holes, especially the stretch from 4 to 9. So, I was actually happy I was parring them with no major difficulties.
"I was glad I was giving myself the birdie chances, and I just hoped maybe one of them will drop, but that was it. I was fine with just parring them," said Cabrera-Bello.
Siem looked good to catch up with him, but after being eight-under par through 17 holes, he bogeyed the par-5 18th to finish on seven-under par. Jamieson also played a bogey-free round and mixed five birdies with an eagle on the par-5 13th.
McIlroy said it was his decision to let his caddie JP Fitzgerald help him with his line of putt halfway through the round, turned around his fortune.
"I just started with six pars. I mean it wasn't that bad. I actually started to get JP to read the putts with me on the back nine, which helped. I'm finding these greens very difficult to read this year, just because there's so much more grains on them than there usually is."
Leading first-round scores in the $2.5million Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday at the par-72 Majlis Course of the Emirates Golf Club:
63 - Rafael Cabrera-Bello (ESP)
65 - Marcel Siem (GER), Scott Jamieson (SCO)
66 - Thomas Bjorn (DEN), Richard Sterne (RSA), Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL), Gregory Bourdy (FRA), Romain Wattel (FRA), Rory McIlroy (NIR), Martin Kaymer (GER)
67 - Jeev Milkha Singh (IND), Oscar Floren (SWE), Peter Lawrie (IRE), Ross Fisher (ENG)
68 - Soren Kjeldsen (DEN), Simon Khan (ENG), Shane Lowry (IRE), Gona Tayo (ARG), Nicholas Thompson (USA)
69 - Noh Seung-Yul (KOR), Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Johan Edfors (SWE), Fredrik Andersson-Hed (SWE), Joost Luiten (NED), Lee Westwood (ENG), Richard McEvoy (ENG), David Howell (ENG), Edoardo Molinari (ITA), Richie Ramsay (SCO), Jbe Kruger (RSA), Stephen Gallacher (SCO), Mark O'Meara (USA), David Lynn (ENG), George Coetzee (RSA)
70 - Fred Couples (USA), Ben Curtis (USA), Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP), Alvaro Quiros (ESP), SSP Chowrasia (IND), Tom Lewis (ENG), Francesco Molinari (ITA)
71 - John Daly (USA), Peter Hanson (SWE), Paul Lawrie (SCO), Matteo Manassero (ITA), Colin Montgomerie (SCO), Jose Maria Olazabal (ESP), Juvic Pagunsan (PHI)
72 - Simon Dyson (ENG), Shaun Micheel (USA), Henrik Stenson (SWE)
73 - Robert Rock (ENG)