World's top two dominate early in Dubai World Championship
November 22, 2012 -- Updated 2201 GMT (0601 HKT)
Luke Donald delighted the galleries with a superb seven-under-par 65 in Dubai.
- Luke Donald leads after first round of Dubai World Championship on 65
- World No.1 Rory Mcllroy tied for second just a shot back
- McIlroy has already clinched Race to Dubai on European Tour
- Three former major winners in tie for fourth in season-finale
(CNN) -- Golf's elite charged to the top of the leaderboard in the first round of the Dubai World Championship Thursday in the $8million concluding event of the European Tour.
World No.2 Luke Donald, looking for back to back wins after victory in the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan last weekend, led the way after a seven-under-par 65 at Jumeirah Golf Estates but rankings leader Rory McIlroy was only one shot adrift in a three-strong chasing group.
Donald grabbed his seven birdies in a stunning run from the fifth to the 14th to set the early pace.
"I felt like I couldn't miss. I hit some really good irons shots too and it's fun when it seems that easy," the Englishman told the official European Tour website.
Exclusive: Tiger and Rory's 'bromance'
Tiger and Rory talk friendly competition
Greatest sporting drama of all time?
McIlroy, who has already clinched money list honors on both the European and PGA Tours, was one under at the turn, but then made five birdies in seven holes.
The Northern Irishman drove into the water at the par-five 18th, but recovered for a par to make sure his card was flawless.
"I think I drove the ball beautifully with the exception of 18," he said.
He shared second place with Scot Marc Warren and Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
Joint fourth on 67 was a star-studded group, with former major winners in Germany's Martin Kaymer, Padraig Harrington of Ireland and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa.
2009 winner Lee Westwood of England was also on that mark along with Scot Richie Ramsay and Fredrik Andersson Hed of Sweden.
But Ryder Cup heroes Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter trailed after one-over 73s.
Garcia is making his first appearance since Medinah after eye surgery, while HSBC World Golf Championship winner Poulter was undone by inconsistent play.
All 12 of the European team which retained the trophy against the United States are playing in Dubai.
The top 60 in the European Tour money list tee off in the showpiece finale, but only 56 have started with Thomas Bjorn and Retief Goosen out injured, while Ross Fisher pulled out earlier in the week, and just before the start Ireland's Shane Lowry withdrew after going down with a virus.
Donald, who moved back ahead of Tiger Woods in the rankings with his Japan victory, is seeking his fourth win of the year.
Part of complete coverage on
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1301 GMT (2101 HKT)
Tom Watson has learned plenty in the 21 years since he was last U.S. Ryder Cup captain, but social media is proving to be problematic.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Patriotism will reach fever pitch when the USA and Europe collide in golf's Ryder Cup ... and it looks like Rickie Fowler has let it go to his head.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Pressure is inescapable in the cauldron of Ryder Cup competition -- pressure and ping pong.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT)
Millions of golf fans were watching on television with great anticipation. All Martin Kaymer could think about was getting his phone out.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1140 GMT (1940 HKT)
She's just 19 but Hyo Joo Kim is already showing she's ready for the big time after recording the lowest ever round at a major championship.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1131 GMT (1931 HKT)
The world's top women golfers will be chasing a $3.25 million prize purse at one of the most stunning courses on the LPGA Tour.
September 3, 2014 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
Tom Watson selects Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson as his wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup contest with Europe.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1352 GMT (2152 HKT)
Ian Poulter, who has constantly haunted the U.S. in Ryder Cup golf, is back after being chosen as a wildcard by European captain Paul McGinley.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Tiger Woods has split with his longtime coach Sean Foley after not winning a major during their four-year tenure.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 1105 GMT (1905 HKT)
Success just keeps on coming for Rory McIlroy, but the world No. 1 is already targeting more titles following his second PGA Championship win.
August 8, 2014 -- Updated 1424 GMT (2224 HKT)
From Seve's "spine-shivering" moment to Jack Nicklaus' "perfect explosion," David Cannon has captured many of golf's defining images.
Today's five most popular stories