Joachim B Hansen on his way to a seven-under 65 at the Dubai Desert Classic
Joachim B Hansen on his way to a seven-under 65 at the Dubai Desert Classic Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Denmark’s Joachim B Hansen shot to the top of the leader board at the Dubai Desert Classic as dusk fell on Emirates Golf Club on Thursday.

‘JB’ fired four birdies in his first five holes and then powered along steadily to post a flawless seven-under 65, to lead by one from South Africa’s Justin Harding, who still has one hole to complete after bad light halted play.

A pack of seven players lurk on five-under, including Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Pablo Larrazabal, England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Italy’s Andrea Pavan.

Collin Morikawa in action at the Dubai Desert Classic
Collin Morikawa in action at the Dubai Desert Classic Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Earlier, Collin Morikawa wasted no time in setting the record straight after his blip in Abu Dhabi.

The world No. 2 came out all guns blazing at the Dubai Desert Classic, to leave the early field trailing as he reached the turn on six-under par, before quickly adding another at the second — his 11th hole.

The American Open Championship and DP World Tour Championship winner limped home in a tie for 62nd on five-over at Yas Links last week and admitted he did not know where his game was.

Ahead of Dubai Morikawa said he hit the “reset button”.

“We were just literally sitting on the range for hours trying to figure out what to do,” Morikawa said during his preparations for the Desert Classic. “We know what’s not working. It’s just trying to get back to my old swing and trying to get back to what I know I can do.”

He certainly did.

Starting on hole 10 alongside Rory McIlroy (-1) and Bernd Wiesberger (-1), Morikawa birdied his first and third before stretching his legs into the turn with four consecutive birdies from the par-3 15th to the challenging traditional closing hole on 18.

Another three on the par-four second took him four strokes clear of the chasing pack with six to play. The American faltered slightly on the way home and signed for a four-under and a tie for third in the clubhouse as bogeys on six, eight and nine left him thinking what might have been.

“It was a bit of a disappointing finish but we had been working Monday through Wednesday on what went wrong last week, trying to figure things out,” he said after his round. “We were thinking about it so much that you almost forget you have to play golf and that’s what we did today. Happy at four-under — not thrilled — but it was good to see some on the things we are working on show up on the course. I am trying not to worry about it too much and just play golf and enjoy myself.”

Dubai Desert Classic Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Sergio Garcia held the early lead

By early afternoon, the clubhouse lead had a Spanish tinge as 2017 winner Garcia was holding the lead alongside countryman Larrazabal.

“It is always good to go bogey-free,” Garcia said following a blemish-free five-under. “It got a bit more challenging on the last few holes with a left-to-right wind but I made a couple of nice par saves at the right time and kept in play most of the time.”

Garcia, 42, playing his first event of the DP World Tour season, added: “I love the weather here and it is a really nice course. I have played well here before, which helps, but it is a great place to start the year, and I still have a lot of things I want to achieve and keep challenging myself and keep fighting.”

Larrazabal, who had seven birdies and two bogeys on his card, said: “I didn’t feel good at the start of the week but I played nine holes on Tuesday and yesterday and I start feeling ready to go. Today we had, you know, one of those days. I am very confident with my driver and making a few putts here and a few putts there.”

But that was before Hansen and Harding made their move in the afternoon, resulting in a jam at the top with four strokes separating the top 26 players.