Family comes first for Hennie Otto, who spent the last fortnight relaxing with his children while they were on break. On Thursday it was back to business for the three-time European Tour winner, who shot 66 at Emirates Golf Club to share sixth place at the start of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
“It’s school holidays back home. We are never home, so the extra two weeks with the kids is fun. My little one started at school, so it was nice to be there for his first big day. It was good to take some extra time off and come back fresh,” he said.
The elite field was led by Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, who shot an impressive 64 to move one stroke clear of Nicolas Colsaerts, Lee Westwood and newly crowned SA Open winner Andy Sullivan.
“It was a special back nine today,” said Wiesberger. “I played really well from nine onwards and hit a lot of birdies. I didn’t quite jump off that train really and it was nice to get to eight‑under par.”
Otto’s round wasn’t quite as fiery, but he was no slouch on the back stretch and made four birdies there to reach six-under-par.
“The wind picked up a little bit this afternoon, but the greens are really good and the golf course is in perfect condition, so you can make the putts. I hit it close and I made putts, and that makes a difference,” he said.
Also tied for sixth was world number one Rory McIlroy, whose first European Tour win came at the Desert Classic in 2009. The Northern Irishman hasn’t finished outside the top two at this event and was the clear favourite heading into the week.
“These sort of scores come a lot easier to me these days, managing my game and knowing how to shoot a score. Back in 2009, 66 would have been a really good score for me and these days it’s sort of what I expect of myself,” McIlroy said.