• DP World Tour Championship

Stenson takes charge of Race To Dubai

ESPN staff
November 14, 2013
Stenson can add to his lucrative Fed Ex Cup success by winning the Race To Dubai © Getty Images

Henrik Stenson held off his Race To Dubai rivals after firing a round of 67 to put himself two shots off leader Alejandro Canizares after the opening round of the DP World Tour Championship.

The European Tour leader came to Dubai knowing a win would secure him the title, but missed the chance to close on 5-under as he bogeyed the 18th after missing a straightforward par putt.

But the Swede will be pleased with a confident opening round, which saw him hit five birdies, though he will have one eye on what is happening behind him, with three men still able to deny him the title.

Canizares has the outright lead after an opening round of 66 © Getty Images

One of those is England's Ian Poulter, who has a gentleman's wager with Stenson over who will win the $1 million cheque that goes with topping the end-of-year standings. The Ryder Cup star hit a 69 to keep himself well in contention to take the World Tour Championship victory he needs to win the title, one behind Stenson on three under.

Compatriot Justin Rose would have closed level with Poulter were it not for a bogey on the 17th which left the US Open champion four shots off the lead.

Graeme McDowell, third in the Race to Dubai before the start of play, will have it all to do after struggling to find a rhythm on his way to a par round of 72. The Ulsterman would have been dead and buried were it not for three straight birdies on the back nine which leaves him clinging to the leading pack.

It means Stenson has strengthened the likelihood of his winning the Race To Dubai, with Poulter the only player in the top 10 to have moved up in the projected standings after the first round, and that only one place at the expense of McDowell.

Spaniard Canizares, whose sole European Tour win came at the Russian Open in 2006, set the benchmark for the first day with a round of 66 - which included six birdies - putting him at six under and giving him the outright lead overnight.

Rory McIlroy, still searching for his first win of the European Tour this year, missed the chance to put himself in a commanding position after letting a bright start fade away as he fell to six shots off the lead at one under.

McIlroy, who won the World Tour Championship last year, showed flashes of brilliance at the start of his round, hitting four birdies in the first seven holes, but struggled with consistency for the remainder of his session, with a bogey on the tricky 18th hole encapsulating his struggles for the day.

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