Dubai: Jeev Milkha Singh landed a superb eagle on 13th to come through with a four-under 68 that gave him a share of the 22nd position on the opening day of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic here on Thursday. Jeev's compatriot, SSP Chowrasia carded a three-under 69 and was lying tied 43rd. South African Richard Sterne shot the lowest round of his European Tour career with a 10-under 62 but that was enough to give him a one-shot lead over Stephen Gallacher.
Jeev, who played his Pro-Am with rock legend, Alice Cooper, had his 80-year-old father, Milkha Singh, walking with him for full 18 holes. "It was great to have him along for the full round," said Jeev. "I shot a pretty good 68, but looking at Richard Sterne's 62, my round looked pretty average. I hope I can go really low tomorrow. We had fantastic scoring conditions today."
For the second successive tournament, Jeev was paired with Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren. "It was amazing. It has never happened to me in 19 years of pro golf," he said. The 31-year-old Sterne, playing a full schedule after a back problem limited him to only four events in 2010 and six the following season, fired a 62 that was only one stroke outside the Emirates course record set by compatriot Ernie Els 19 years ago.
Els was five better than anybody else that day and went on to win by six, but Sterne goes into the second round just one ahead of Scot Stephen Gallacher. Sterne had ten birdies but the five-time European Tour winner could not manage the one extra gain he needed in the last two holes to match the Els record. "I knew Ernie had shot 61 quite a while ago and always thought it would be impossible to get close, but I got as close as you could. I couldn't have asked for a better start really. I enjoy this golf course and it shows with the good score today. I do want to win again and that's one of the goals for the year," he said.
Gallacher's 63 equalled his lowest Tour round in 398 events, only one of which - the 2004 Dunhill Links at St Andrews - has ended in victory. The 38-year-old, joint runner-up with Westwood last year and armed with a new driver after breaking his regular one last week, sank a 175 yard seven iron for a two on the 485 yard sixth, added another eagle on the 13th and then had a hat-trick of birdies from the 15th.
"It was a bizarre round. I chipped in and three-putted from six feet everything was happening. I drove it great and hit a lot of shots close." Gallacher's compatriots Scott Jamieson the early Race to Dubai leader and Chris Doak, as well as England's Tommy Fleetwood, were tied for third on seven under par. The scoring was such that Lee Westwood's 67 - the same as 56 year old Mark O'Meara, winner in 2004 - in his first competitive outing of the season was not even good enough to put him in the top ten.
Chris Wood and Sergio Garcia, first and second in Qatar last weekend, both shot 68, but the Spanish star was troubled by his left shoulder.