Rory McIlroy hit a sizzling nine-under 63 in the opening round of the $2.5m Dubai Desert Classic, bolstering his hopes of claiming a first European tour win since 2012.

Playing the back nine holes first, the Northern Irishman was unperturbed by a 0405 GMT tee-off time, reaching the turn at five-under after sinking a quintet of birdies from the 12th to the 18th.

He rattled in an eagle at the par-five third hole with a 25-foot putt and picked up two further shots in a blemish-free round on the Majlis course.

Playing partner Tiger Woods kept pace initially to be four-under after nine holes, but then sunk nine successive pars to finish on 68, five behind his rival.

"Sometimes you have an early start, it maybe takes you a few holes to get going," McIlroy told reporters, when asked about his scintillating start.

"But whenever you have people on the tee box and cameras clicking, it sort of makes you more alert at that time of the morning when sometimes you're half asleep."

McIlroy has fond memories of Dubai, claiming his first European tour victory at this event in 2009 and also winning 2012's DP World Tour Championship to become only the second golfer to top the money list in both Europe and US in the same season.

These achievements helped McIlroy become world number one, but he endured a tough 2013, rarely troubling the leaderboard as he sunk to sixth in the rankings.

Source: Reuters