Warren Little

By Kent Gray
With 54 holes
still to play and a leaderboard dotted with so many pedigreed names, Richard Sterne has a long way to go before he can even contemplate hoisting the fabled Dallah trophy.

Even so, the 39-year-old South African feels closer to victory than he has in an awfully long time after opening the 32nd OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic with a sizzling eight-under 64.

He’ll take a one stroke lead over American Kurt Kitayama into Friday’s second round and hope that a title drought spanning eight long years might soon be over. Mind you, 2017 champion Sergio Garcia and Justin Harding are tied third after 66s and Paul Casey (67), Tommy Fleetwood (68) and Lee Westwood (69), among decorated others, lurk ominously.

“It’s always good to get off to a good start. It helps you for the rest of the week,” said Sterne who has history at Emirates Golf Club, a runner-up finish to Stephen Gallacher in 2013, to draw further inspiration from.

“I haven’t had many chances going into weekends for a long time, so it would be nice to get through tomorrow and place myself well and see how the weekend goes.”

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The last of Sterne’s six European Tour titles came at the 2013 Joburg Open. He managed just seven starts last season, partly due to the pandemic but mostly because of wrist surgery.

“I played the last few events last year, which I actually played pretty decently considering I had not played for so long. And then finishing 25th last week gave me a lot of confidence. I’m just trying to watch my back, so I haven’t put much preparation into this week. Just got nine holes in Tuesday and I didn’t even come to the course yesterday.

“When I was in trouble [today], I got out of it and made some good par putts and kept the round going. I hit a lot golf shots, as well, made quite a few birdies.”

Nine of them in fact. A few more on Friday will ensure a fun weekend awaits.

OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic ‘Daily News’ preview edition
OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic ‘Daily News’ round 1 edition