Pieters tames the Majlis to take sole ownership
The Belgian golfer stroked a five-under to hold a one-shot lead at the top of the leaderboard while American David Lipsky was second with a four-under while 12 others were tied third at three-under.
There are still a few days to go before Thomas Pieters turns 28 and it is still early days into the 31st installment of Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
It remains to be seen if the Belgian can celebrate his birthday with the Dallah Trophy but the Antwerp resident did nothing wrong to put himself in a good position on Thursday.
On an attritional opening day at the Emirates Golf Club where 132 golfers were up against the elements and a difficult Majlis Course, Pieters stroked a five-under to hold a one-shot lead at the top of the leaderboard.
Pieters, who turns 28 next Monday, just a day after the Classic comes to a conclusion, overcame a horrendous start to his back nine to return with 67 on the day.
Pieters, who has four wins on the European Tour, the last of which came at the D+D Real Czech Masters last August, had eight birdies, a bogey and a double bogey.
Teeing off from the par-5 10th, Pieters began with back-to-back birdies. He birdied the par-5 13th and the par-3 15th before wrapping his flawless opening nine holes with a birdie on the par-5 18th.
But then, the start to his return journey ran into obstacles as he endured a double bogey on the par-4 1st and then followed it up with a bogey on the par-4 second.
Pieters pulled it back together with a flurry of birdies on the 5th, 6th and 7th to go top. He admitted that the course was quite tough but he gave himself enough chances.
"That was pretty tough with the rough being that thick, it was definitely a challenge," Pieters said after his round.
"There's nothing easy about today, but I found 14 greens, which is always nice in these kind of conditions. I thought putting was quite tough because the greens are rock hard. I gave myself plenty of chances and luckily made a few," he added.
Pieters credited his round to the work he put in on his putting.
"I've been working on my putting real hard, and I just hope to see some progress. I saw that today. Hopefully, we can keep it up. I know I'm hitting the ball quite nice, and you know, I'm just looking forward to the next three days," said Pieters, whose best finish at a major is a tied fourth at the Masters in 2017.
Meanwhile, American David Lipsky, who held the clubhouse lead, was second with a four-under while 12 others were tied third at three-under.
Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau had four birdies and two bogeys to be tied 15th and two-under.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Champion Lee Westwood was tied 113th, while Tommy Fleetwood was tied 74th.
67 - Thomas Pieters (BEL); 68 - David Lipsky (USA); 69 - Masahiro Kawamura (JPN), Shaun Norris (RSA), Kurt Kitayama (USA), Soren Kjeldsen (DEN), Lucas Herbert (AUS), Wu Ashun (CHN), Matthieu Pavon (FRA), Eddie Pepperell, Robert Karlsson (SWE), Dean Burmester (RSA), Kalle Samooja (FIN), Romain Langasque (FRA); 70 - Bryson DeChambeau (USA), Romain Wattel (FRA), Erik van Rooyen (RSA), Sebastien Heisele (GER); 71 - Padraig Harrington, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA), Sergio Garcia (ESP), Zander Lombard (RSA), Justin Harding (RSA), Viktor Hovland (NOR), Ian Poulter, Sebastian Soderberg (SWE), Jack Singh Brar, Julien Guerrier (FRA), Jayden Trey Schaper (RSA/am)
Selected: 72 - Henrik Stenson (SWE), Shane Lowry, Martin Kaymer (GER), Graeme McDowell; 74 - Matthew Fitzpatrick; 75 - Tommy Fleetwood; 76 - Jazz Janewattananond (THA), Danny Willett, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT); 77 - Matt Wallace; 78 - Lee Westwood, Li Haotong (CHN); 81 - Shugo Imahira (JPN)
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