Rory McIlroy buzzes like a bee to grab the first round lead at the DP World Tour Championship

The Northern Irishman defied his 2021 problems to fly all the trouble on the Earth Course and card a superb 7-under-par 65 for a two shots advantage over the field.

At its best golf is a wonderfully simple sport.

But it's also one that can quickly ensnare a fellow in the clutches of over-thinking and confusion.

Take the Thursday morning words of the Chief Technology Officer of The European Tour, when he announced a new partnership with Fortinet.

"In recent years we have pioneered the Tournament-As-A-Service concept, which packages intelligent and connected golf course systems into a cloud-based 'smart city' solution that can be rolled out at any tournament," he said.

"As we continue to bring this concept to life, Fortinet's platform approach, through its Security Fabric offering, will further enhance the management, monitoring and agility of this complex operation and make sure we give our various stakeholders - whether that be fans, media, partners or players - an exceptional and secure experience."

A sleeve of Penfold Commandos to anyone who can reveal that any of that means on the back of a postcard.

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It was perhaps fitting that, as this bewildering brave new world was being unveiled, Rory McIlroy was cruising around Jumeirah's Earth Course, carding a 7-under-par 65 that left him two strokes clear of the field at the end of the first round of the DP World Tour Championship.

The 32-year-old is, after all, a golfer who has the sometimes happy (other times unhappy) knack of making the simple look impossible and the impossible look simple.

For most of 2021 those thorny clutches of confusion have had him well and truly entangled, but it says everything about the man and his game that, despite this, he has twice emerged triumphant and is now in the ideal position to complete a hat trick of wins for the year.

Because on this day, for the most part, McIlroy utilised his happy combination: he made the tricky business of circuiting Earth appear straightforward.

A birdie from 24-feet on the first green was followed by two blows that covered 580 of the 583 yards from tee to flag at the par-5 second, and then he drained the eagle putt.

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"Honestly all I was trying to do was get it in the front bunker," he said after signing his card. "I didn't think I had enough club to get it over but I absolutely flushed it. It was like a bee in the tree."

A bee in a tree? Sounds like something a security fabric might protect us from, but whatever.

McIlroy found himself 6-under-par through eight, dropped his only shot of the day at the ninth, bounced back immediately he made the turn, and ended his day with a final red number at the par-5 18th to sneak an extra blow clear of Tapio Pulkannen, Joachim B Hansen and Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

He then pondered his relationship with the course.

"I've been coming back here now for 12 years and it flies by," he said. "That's a lot of experience, a lot of great memories of great shots and great putts.

"It's comfortable for me. If you can carry the ball over 300 yards on this course it gets a lot easier, clearing some of those fairway bunkers, reaching wider landing areas. I've been able to use that to my advantage over last few years."

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Of the business of the game becoming complex he was, as so often, philosophical.

"I'm a big boy now," he said. "I've been around the block a bit and if I have problems or struggles, I should be able to sort them out myself.

"Instead of looking to others to fix my problems, I'm going to take responsibility and that's what I did after the Ryder Cup. I put my head down and spent a lot of time on the range figuring out what it is I do well and what do I need to get back to.

"I've always been a very visual player. I always see shots. Maybe not quite as much as Bubba Watson but still that's how I've always played golf. And I just need to get back to seeing it like that again.

"I think sometimes I maybe don't set my standards high enough. They are high, but getting into contention in one major this year isn't good enough for me.

"I've done way better than that before and I know I can again, especially with how I'm playing.

"It feels like I've got my golf game back, basically. I'm excited for those four events next year and excited about the road ahead because I really feel like I'm on the right path."

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Can he complete the job this week? Race to Dubai leader Collin Morikawa and Sergio Garcia are among 10 players three shots back on 4-under.

Let's take a look at McIlroy's past record with an early advantage and his course record, too.

McIlroy with a first round lead

He's had 29 first round leads in his career and converted the win five times.

In all, 14 of those leads were solo (rather than shared) and he won three of them.

Incredibly, this is his ninth first round lead in the United Arab Emirates, the second in this event, and he's so far only gone on to win once.

The last time he was involved in a first round lead and went on to lift the trophy was the 2014 Open - his last Major Championship success.

The past four times he's been top after 18 holes he has failed to break 70 in the second round (and has done so only five times in the last 16 instances).

McIlroy on the Earth Course

He's played here 10 times, always finished top 20, has eight times ended the week in the top 10, seven of those were top fives, he won in 2012 and 2015.

His response to low first rounds here has not been great.

A 66 in 2011 was followed by a 71, another 66 in 2014 preceded a 70, his 64 last year was fully 10 shots better than his Friday effort.

The better news? His only other sub-68 start was a 66 in 2012. He backed it up with a 67 on his way to victory.

READ MORE: Rory McIlroy's quest for more Major Championship glory: Can more coaching changes turn the tide?

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