On a day when McIlroy had to settle for a level-par 72, which included three dropped shots in his last four holes, and Open champion Collin Morikawa could only manage a 73, Jamieson set a blistering pace in the $8 millon Rolex Series event as he shot a new course record at Yas Links with a bogey-free nine-under-par 63.
The brilliant effort on a testing Kyle Phillips-designed course playing at 7,425 yards earned Jamieson a one-shot lead over world No 7 Viktor Hovland, who also signed for nine birdies in his equally-impressive afternoon performance.
Belgian Thomas Pieters sits third on 67, one ahead of a group that includes Dundee-based Frenchman Victor Perez, defending champion Tyrrell Hatton and Ian Poulter, another European who lives these days in Florida.
It was also a promising start to a new working year for Bob MacIntyre and David Law as they shot matching 69s, as well as Connor Syme (70), but, in his 300th outing on the renamed DP World Tour, the day definitely belonged to Jamieson.
“Just really solid all day, to be honest,” said the 38-year-old in summing up his effort, which was sparked by a confidence-boosting birdie at the first and also included a burst of three gains to start the back nine then a nice one from 10 feet to finish.
Jamieson, who now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach with American-wife Natalie and their three young kids, finished 26th in the Race to Dubai in 2017, but just hasn’t managed to fire on all cylinders over the past four seasons.
As a result, he has slipped to 336th in the world rankings, but the man who played his amateur golf at Cathkin Braes wasn’t completely surprised to begin his 12th successive season on the European circuit on such a positive note.“This is the first off-season I haven't actually peeled the skin back and try to figure out how to get better,” admitted Jamieson, who recorded his sole victory in the Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban in 2012.
“Felt like the game was in a good place finishing in Dubai (in November) and just missed out on a top 10 there. I've been driving it a lot better the last few events of the year last year, so I was pretty comfortable where my game was. I just had to hope that it turned up again eight weeks later.”
An affable big man, Jamieson finished joint-eighth in this event in 2020 before making the top 20 again 12 months ago. Both those efforts came at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, but a change of venue hasn’t knocked him out of his stride.
“It's like playing in Scotland but it's warm,” he declared, smiling. “That's maybe the best of both worlds for me. It's a stunning-looking golf course. It's a great design.”
After cutting it a bit fine before securing his card last season, Jamieson is hoping to use this and and next week’s Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic, which is also part of the Rolex Series for the first time, to make things a lot more comfortable for him this time around.“When I started practising a couple weeks ago, I kept telling myself that you have to hit the ground running here because it could ultimately dictate how your season goes,” he said.
“If you miss the first two cuts of the year, then all of a sudden you feel like you're miles behind because there's such great prizes in the first couple of events. I was aware of that, so mentally I was trying to be as prepared as I could be.”
Hovland, winner of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas last month, covered his last 13 holes in an impressive eight-under.
“That was nice,” said the ever-smiling Norwegian of his day’s work. “I did not hit the best of shots early on but holed a bunch of putts - that certainly woke me up from the jet lag!”
Perez, the 2019 Alfred Dunhill Links champion, covered his opening seven holes in seven-under, helped by an eagle-2 at the fifth, then got it to eight-under in the middle of the back nine before dropping two shots in the last four holes.
“As good of a start as anybody could have expected, really flying,” said Perez. “It's hard to keep going in a sense because I think you get a little bit outside your comfort zone. But I am still very pleased.”
Taking up where he left off at the end of last season, when he tied for fourth in the DP World Tour Championship to finish eighth in the Race to Dubai, MacIntyre carded five birdies, three off which came in his opening five holes.
“I started off hot and I thought ‘this is going to be a good round of golf’,” admitted the 25-year-old Oban man afterwards. “I struggled a little bit in the middle part of the round, when it got a bit tougher, but it was solid enough and I’m delighted with how it all went.”
Richie Ramsay, who previously held the course record, having carded a 62 on a shorter layout, also broke par with his 71, but David Drysdale (73), Grant Forrest (73), Marc Warren (74) and Colin Montgomerie (75) all have work on their hands to make the weekend.
Among 18 players still to finish, Ewen Ferguson and Stephen Gallacher will resume on one-under and one-over respectively.
Wind gusting to 30mph is on the cards for the second round. “Be interesting to see how they are going to set the course up,” said the leader of an anticipated tough test.