Rory McIlroy has a Lamborghini at home and it looks as though Lee Westwood might need a rocket to pass the Ulsterman and win the inaugural Race to Dubai.

Westwood walked away with a two stroke lead over McIlroy following their fascinating first round battle at the Earth Course in the Dubai World Championship. 

Had it not been for a gutsy back nine by the Irish starlet, he could easily be sleeping on a five shot advantage over the European No 1 in waiting.

The 36-year old Englishman is playing it cool, but he knows that losing sight of the Holywood hotshot in his rear view mirror  might not be all that easy.

A win for either player would give them the European money title and while Westwood carded a six under par 66 to sit a stroke off the lead held by Australian Robert Allenby, McIlroy managed a 68 that was as impressive as it was enthralling.

The young Ulsterman looked likely to be left spluttering in Westwood’s exhaust fumes on several occasions but showed that when the pressure is on, he produces.

Still, he’s green in more ways than one.

While he intended not to watch what Westwood was doing, McIlroy confessed that he found himself mulling over the significance of his stablemate’s every stroke. 

Westwood, needless to say, took the opposite tack.

“I didn't think I would find it as difficult as I did to be honest," McIlroy said. “But that's the way I found it and I thought I dealt pretty well with it.

“Lee's been around a lot longer than me. You want to try and concentrate on the tournament, but at the same time you're seeing what he's doing.

“It will be nice not to play with him tomorrow, just to concentrate fully on my own score and on my own game.

“I think it will be good for both of us not to play together. We're both just trying to win the Dubai World Championship and whatever happens after that then so be it.

“Today almost felt like a last group final round sort of thing. We're the top two in the Race to Dubai and it's hard to get away from that.

“I think the intensity levels have been raised a little but just because there's so much to play for, especially to be the first person to become the champion of the Race to Dubai.”

Did it feel special to Westwood? "No it didn't," said the 36-year-old, who has finished in the Order of Merit top three on no fewer than five occasions in his career.

"There's a long way to go and a lot of water to go under the bridge before we get to Sunday.

"You're going to have to play well to get into contention on Sunday, so to be bothered about anything on the first tee on a Thursday that concerns anything other than trying to hit it down the middle and get on the green in two to give yourself a birdie chance is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned.

"I looked at the leaderboard and saw Robert Allenby at seven (under). What Rory is doing didn't really have any effect on the way I was thinking."

By the time they reached the ninth, Westwood was two under and McIlroy had to get up and down from sand to go out in level and avoid falling three behind his nearest rival and eight behind the leader.

He did it in style, saving his par at the ninth and then following a birdie at the 11th with a brilliant 20 foot putt for a momentum saving par at the 12th before reeling off three birdies in a row from the 13th

“I could see Allenby miles ahead on six under on the leaderboard, and I knew I had to get going,” McIlroy said of his sand save at the ninth. 

The par save at the 12th was even more crucial. Westwood had a 15 footer for birdie and had McIlroy missed, his stablemate would have had a putt to go five in front of home.

He holed and Westwood missed. Then on the par five 13th, McIlroy birdied with a glorious 47 yard bunker shot that spun back to a few feet whereas Westwood fluffed a pitch from a sandy lie short of the green and three putted for bogey.

In fairness to the Englishman, he bounced back with three birdies of his own and could have shared the lead had he not misread or mishit an eight foot birdie chance at the last after brilliantly clipping a nine iron approach off some wood chippings.

Westwood will be paired with Camilo Villegas in the second round and McIlroy was relieved that he will be out with Johan Edfors in the fifth last match, just ahead of Padraig Harrington, who is also tied for fifth after a 68.

Peter Lawrie and Gareth Maybin shot 71s to share 22nd with Martin Kaymer on one under with Damien McGrane tied 50 after a 74 and Graeme McDowell 56th in the 58 man field after a closing seven gave him a 76.