Dubai, United Arab Emirates (SportsNetwork.com) - Alejandro Canizares shot 6- under-par 66 on Thursday and grabbed a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
Marcus Fraser and Kiradech Aphibarnrat carded matching 5-under 67s on Jumeirah Golf Estates' Earth Course to share second place at the ultimate event of the European Tour's Final Series.
Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson shot 4-under 68 to end 18 holes tied for fourth place with Jamie Donaldson and Rafael Cabrera-Bello. Stenson had a chance to reach minus-6 at the par-5 last, but he 3-putted from inside 10 feet to close with a bogey.
"You can't win a tournament on Thursday but you can certainly play your way out of it," said Stenson, who is looking to become the first player to win the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in the same year. "I would have taken 4-under at the start of the day so I just have to let the disappointment of the last slip away."
Ian Poulter, who is fourth in the Race to Dubai standings, shot 3-under 69. He is tied for seventh place with Thongchai Jaidee and Thorbjorn Olesen.
"I am annoyed," Poulter said. "I made two putts which were outside birdie chances and took a couple more but the rest were missed. I am frustrated but happy to be only three behind (the lead)."
The top nine players in the Race to Dubai standings still have a chance to win the title, but only Stenson, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell control their own fate. If Stenson, Rose or McDowell win this tournament, they will win the Race to Dubai, regardless of where anyone else finishes.
Rose is tied for 10th after an opening-round 70, while McDowell shares 27th at even-par 72.
Canizares hasn't won on the European Tour since earning his maiden title in 2006. At 54th in the standings, the Spaniard has no chance to win the Race to Dubai, but that didn't stop him from starting fast on Thursday.
Out with the morning wave, Canizares mixed seven birdies and a bogey to set the early clubhouse mark.
The lead remained intact, though Stenson nearly pulled even.
Stenson was flawless until the last, picking up shots at the third, fifth, seventh, 10th and 16th, where he rolled home a 25-footer to reach 5-under.
A tie with Canizares seemed probable when Stenson dropped his third shot within 10 feet at the last, but three putts from there denied the 37-year-old Swede a share of the lead.
"It has been a lot of hard work all season and I just let my focus slip on the last," said Stenson. "That sucks, but I am still in good shape and playing nicely. The guys are running on fumes so everybody is looking forward to getting done."
NOTES: Stenson leads Rose by 213,468 points in the Race to Dubai. McDowell trails Stenson by 321,800 points. Poulter, Donaldson, Gonzalo Fernandez- Castano, Jaidee, Richard Sterne and Victor Dubuisson stand Nos. 4 - 9 in the Race to Dubai ... Sergio Garcia (13), Ernie Els (17), Charl Schwartzel (22) and Alex Noren (51) are the only players inside the top 60 in the Race to Dubai standings who are not playing this event ... The purse for this tournament is $8 million, with the winner earning $1.33 million.