Rory McIlroy made an excellent start to his first tournament of 2016 as he shot a six-under-par 66 in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Thursday.
His card was only spoiled by the presence of a couple of bogeys in his opening nine, but there were eight birdies there to more than make up for it.
Here is McIlroy's scorecard from the opening day of action in the UAE:
The European Tour provided the world No. 3's first drive of 2016 as he started on the 10th hole:
The Northern Irishman picked up a shot straight away as he got up and down having sent his second on the par five into the green-side bunker, a 15-foot putt sealing the birdie.
Another was forthcoming at his second hole as McIlroy made the perfect start to his round and his year, per ESPN's Jason Sobel:
If you're keeping track, it took Rory McIlroy exactly two holes this year to grab a share of his first lead.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) January 21, 2016
His putt lipped out on the par-three 12th to prevent three birdies in a row, and he then handed a shot back with a five on the 13th following a three-putt.
However, he responded in emphatic fashion, picking up another birdie on the tricky 14th and then holing a monster putt for a two on the par-three 15th.
McIlroy dropped back to two under par with another three-putt on the 17th, but again he provided an immediate response with a birdie on the par-five 18th following excellent approach play.
Having played his first nine in 33, the 26-year-old carried his momentum into the first, holing a 10-footer to go to four under and take a share of the lead again.
Another birdie came at the third, McIlroy rolling in another decent length putt as he kept ahead of his playing partners, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, per the European Tour:
12 holes. 7 birdies. pic.twitter.com/8JypQwhvwg— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 21, 2016
His unblemished second nine was maintained at the par-three seventh when he scrambled for a par having driven into a bunker.
And despite a wild second shot as he attempted to hit the green in two at the lengthy eighth, he got up and down for birdie thanks to a 15-footer from the fringe.
McIlroy almost finished in perfect fashion as his birdie attempt lipped out, but a closing par still made for a terrific round, and he looks in excellent shape going into Friday's action.