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Spain’s Alejandro Canizares is the early leader after the opening round of the US$8 million DP World Tour Championship, Dubai thanks to a six under-par 66 on a day when Henrik Stenson inched closer to becoming European Number One.

Stenson needs to finish ahead of his man rivals to clinch overall Race to Dubai title and he opened his four days on the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates with a business-like four under-par 68, two shots behind early leader Canizares.

A birdie on the par five 18th would have been enough to give the Swede a share of the lead but a bogey six – the only blemish on the card of the World Number Three – saw his finish the day tied for fourth alongside Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Welshman Jamie Donaldson.

“I was tired at the last and slipped a bit on the focus so it was frustrating to drop one there as I had been playing nicely,” said Stenson. “But it’s still a good first round. I’m playing well, so no need to be worried about the game – one round down, three to go. You can’t win tournaments on a Thursday but you can certainly play your way out of them.”

But while Stenson and the big guns entertain thoughts of winning the season-long Race to Dubai, for Canizares - ranked 54th in The Race to Dubai – the target is a tournament win in the fifth staging of the DP World Tour Championship.

Seven birdies and one bogey saw him finish the day with a 66 to move one shot ahead of Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Australia’s Marcus Fraser who both finished with a five under par 67.
“I played very solid but didn’t do anything extraordinary although I holed some good putts,” said Canizares. “I was pretty steady overall and am quite happy with the score so far.”

As well as Stenson, England’s Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland know that victory in the DP World Tour Championship will also guarantee The Race to Dubai crown. Rose, who opened with a two under-par 70 for a share of tenth place, two behind great rival Stenson, is happy to play the waiting game.

“Henrik seems to be getting off to strong starts in all his tournaments recently,” said the reigning US Open Champion after playing alongside the Swede. “He’s got his name on the board and making it hard for the rest of us but I knew that could be the case. It’s a four round tournament and at no point today was I ever worried about where Henrik was. I’ve just got to trust the fact that I’ll get hot myself.”

McDowell opened with a disappointing level par 72 and while he is six shots off the lead in a tie for 27th place the former US Open Champion remains optimistic about the final chapter of The Race to Dubai.

“I hit it nicely on the back nine so I’m looking forward to getting back out in the morning,” he said. ”It could have been a very disappointing evening if I had not made those three birdies coming in. But there’s no panic, I’m in middle of the pack but there’s a long way to go. I’ve won many tournaments from here; I’ve just got to get back out in the morning and get at it.”

Also gunning for The Race to Dubai Crown is Ian Poulter who opened with a three under-par 69 and a share of seventh. “I’m feeling as confident as I ever have and I’m probably swinging it the best I ever have so it’s a good mix,” he said. “I’ve got plenty left for the next three days and hopefully I can roll a few putts in. I need to continue to be aggressive over the next three days and see if I can nick it at the end.”

Just four shots separate the top 16 players in the 56-man field. Of the big names in action in the morning, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy – who last year won both the DP World Tour Championship and The Race to Dubai – had to settle for a 71 (-1) despite running in four birdies in his first seven holes to lie in joint 17th.

Yesterday’s opening round got off to a flying start thanks to a special performance from the British Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team – better known as the Red Arrows - who saluted the 56 strong field with a unique golfing fly past.

The distinctive red jets marked the occasion at exactly 12.35pm, just five minutes before Stenson and Rose hit their opening tee shots on the Earth Course.

Thousands of spectators are expected to watch the Red Arrows during their five engagements at the Dubai Air Show later this week. Officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows represent the United Kingdom and have been thrilling crowds, at home and overseas, since the 1960s.

Play will resume again on Friday at Jumeirah Golf Estates with the first players teeing off at 8am. Free tickets for the 2013 DP World Tour Championship are available by registering online at the official website

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