Min Woo Lee outshone in the Dubai desert

Min Woo Lee has made a solid start in his bid for the Dubai Desert Classic title but was outshone by his European playing partners.

MIN WOO LEE of Australia plays his approach shot during the Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club in Sydney, Australia.
MIN WOO LEE of Australia plays his approach shot during the Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club in Sydney, Australia. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

Min Woo Lee has found himself upstaged by his European playing partners as he launched his latest quest to translate some fine form into a first golf title for 18 months at the Dubai Desert Classic.

Fresh from finishing runner-up at the Abu Dhabi Championship, the on-song Australian made a decent start on a rain-delayed first day at the Emirates Golf Club, standing at one under after 15 holes before bad light called a halt.

But his playing partners were both making hay when play was called off, with Belgium's Thomas Pieters leading the tournament on five under and Frenchman Victor Perez, who had pipped Lee to the Abu Dhabi crown, in a share of second at four under.

Lee, who's been on a great run with five top-four finishes in his last seven events, is out to win his first European Tour crown since the 2021 Scottish Open, chasing a $US1.53 million ($A2.15 million) first prize in the UAE.

But he had to wait to get going on Thursday along with the rest of the field after players were informed not to travel to the course because roads leading there had been flooded after heavy rain.

When he finally teed off in the afternoon from the 10th at the Majlis Course following a six-hour delay, the 24-year-old went along smoothly enough, recording three birdies, all at the par-fives.

Yet two bogeys on his inward stretch left him in joint-28th when play was called off for the day.

Meanwhile, he watched Pieters rack up five birdies in six holes around the turn, while Perez hadn't dropped a shot in his four-under round.

Lee was at least able to get through most of his round, with only 12 players able to complete all 18 holes, while half the field were left to wait until Friday to launch their bids.

The early headline acts were Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy, who'd also dominated the pre-tournament build-up with their war of words.

American Reed had thrown a tee towards McIlroy after being snubbed by the world No.1 on the practice range.

The Northern Irishman had explained how he wasn't happy about being subpoenaed on Christmas Eve by the lawyer representing Reed in a defamation lawsuit.

Not that Reed seemed unduly bothered by the rumpus as he moved to four under par with just two more holes to play, while McIlroy was poised to move to three under at his 16th hole as he was left with a birdie putt from four foot when the hooter sounded.