FIRST ROUND LEADERBOARD:
-4 JM Singh (Ind), S Dodd (Wal), E Molinari (Ita), A Noren (Swe), C Schwartzel (SA), R McIlroy (NI)
Selected others: -3 P Casey (Eng) -2 R Fisher (Eng) -1 C Montgomerie (Sco), D Clarke (NI), M Kaymer (Ger) level L Westwood (Eng)
McIlroy felt he played "solid" gold after an indifferent start
Defending champion Rory McIlroy is one of six leaders after day one of the Dubai Desert Classic.
The Northern Ireland player lies four under par with Welshman Stephen Dodd, Jeev Milkha Singh, Edoardo Molinari, Charl Schwartzel and Alexander Noren.
Anders Hansen, Richard Green, Paul Casey, Alvaro Quiros and amateur Matteo Manassero are all on three under.
McIlroy is hoping to secure a second European Tour title, having finished in the top five on several occasions.
The Holywood player carded five birdies and a bogey in his opening round.
The 20-year-old started off "ropey" in his own words in the blustery, sandswept conditions and then steadied up before producing four birdies on the back nine for a four-under 68.
McIlroy bogeyed the short par-four second after slamming his drive way left onto the adjacent golf course and he was facing another dropped shot on the next hole after overhitting his putt from 35 feet away.
"It hit the hole, jumped up about a foot in the air and went in. It was pretty fortunate," he said.
"If the ball didn't hit the hole, it was another wedge. It was going off the green. From there on, I just played solid golf. At the start of the day, I would have taken anything under 70 looking at the scores and the conditions."
McIlroy is bidding to become the first man to successfully defend the title since the tournament started in 1989 and also become the youngest player to successfully defend a title on the European Tour.
Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie is in a share of 19th place, with birdies at the 10th and 11th setting up a one-under-par 71, while fellow Scot Richie Ramsay matched that score with a more eventful round, picking up his fourth birdie at the last.
European number one Lee Westwood posted a level-par 72, with Open Championship runner-up Tom Watson a further shot back after an "up-and-down" 73 from the 60-year-old American.
Darren Clarke was the best of the other Northern Ireland players on one under, with Graeme McDowell on level par, Gareth Maybin one over and Michael Hoey three over.
Ireland's Damien McGrane is one over, with Shane Lowry three over, Peter Lawrie five over and Stephen Deane eight over.