DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Rafael Cabrera-Bello made nine birdies in his first 11 holes to finish at 9-under 63 Thursday for a two-shot lead after the first round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Marcel Siem and Scott Jamieson each shot 65.
U.S. Open Champion Rory McIlroy was three shots back, making seven birdies on the last 10 holes. He’s tied for fourth with six other players, including 2010 PGA Champion Martin Kaymer, who had five birdies and then a closing eagle on the back nine.
Cabrera-Bello said he briefly thought about scoring 59, one shot better than his career-best 60 that helped him win the Austrian Open. But he ended the round with seven straight pars.
Third-ranked Lee Westwood had a 69, and defending champion Alvaro Quiros shot a 70. Robert Rock, who beat Tiger Woods and McIlroy at Abu Dhabi on Jan. 29, trails by 10 shots.
McIlroy kicked off a month that could see him take over as world No. 1 by charging into contention.
Cabrera-Bello was already 9 under par when McIlroy teed off, but after a slow start -- 1 over after eight -- McIlroy grabbed seven birdies on the same Emirates Course where he won his first professional title three years ago.
McIlroy had acted as ball boy when girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki went for tennis practice on the eve of the tournament, but Thursday was her turn to watch. The 22-year-old three-putted from only four feet to bogey the seventh, but after that the only deviations from par were in the right direction.
Missing a good eagle chance on the last meant McIlroy did not quite cap off his round in the way he hoped, but he was not complaining.
"Seeing 9 under on the leaderboard is tough," he said. "You just have to stay patient, bide your time and create opportunities, but not force it. I think I've matured as a golfer and I knew the back nine is definitely more scoreable."
The European Tour’s first-ever 59 looked like a distinct possibility when Cabrera-Bello he packed nine birdies into his first 11 holes. The 27-year-old Canary Islander needed four more birdies for the magic mark, but had to settle for seven pars.
"Just for a second after the birdie on No. 2 (his 11th hole), I tried to do the math on what I needed for 59," he said. "Then I told myself to stop being foolish and don't be too greedy.
"Nothing wrong happened -- there were some tough holes to come and I didn't drop a stroke," he explained. "It's a really, really good score, but in itself it means nothing. If you want to stay grounded you think of how many leaders of the first round win the tournament."
He knows it doesn’t happen often, but McIlroy did it at the U.S. Open and in Hong Kong last season.
Siem had hopes of posting a 63 as well when he stood on the last fairway at 8 under, but he ran up a bogey-6 after his ball -- he reckoned it must have had mud under it -- flew right of target into the lake.
Jamieson had five top-six finishes in his rookie season last year, but made only one of his last nine cuts and so was delighted to show some form again.
"I think I probably played a bit too much and lost a bit of hunger," said the 28-year-old from Glasgow.
Compatriot Paul Lawrie, the winner in Qatar on Sunday, closed with a 6 as well -- in his case a double bogey on the ninth -- and will resume on 1 under.
The same hole cost American John Daly, fourth last week, a 7 as he too began with a 71.