Rory McIlroy leads the pack in Dubai Desert Classic
Koepka, Willett and Stenson are in the chasing group behind Irish star
Rory McIlroy walks through the desert from the 10th tee during the second round of the 2014 Omega Dubai Desert Classic. — Getty Images
Rory McIlroy is confident of taking out his second Omega Dubai Desert Classic title here, despite seeing his two-shot overnight lead halved by Brooks Koepka on Friday.
The Northern Irishman, 24, could only manage to add two strokes to Thursday’s opening round of nine-under par, thereby allowing the likes of Koepka, Danny Willett and world number three Henrik Stenson to bunch up in the chasing pack behind him.
However, having emerged as the leader for two rounds in succession, McIlroy believes he can win wire-to-wire having already proven his front-running credentials in the past.
“I do (expect to win),” McIlroy replied when asked whether fans’ expectations matched his own after day two on the Majlis course. “I’m leading the golf tournament. I’ve been in this position before and I’ve gone on to win. I’ve led from the front quite well in tournaments that I’ve won and I feel like I’m still playing well.
“I know the course just as well as anyone else, so I’m expecting to go out there, shoot two good scores over the weekend and hopefully lift the trophy.”
Teeing off on the first hole, which he eventually bogeyed, McIlroy recovered with three birdies — at the third, fifth and seventh holes — to make the turn for home on two-under.
However, he was unable to capitalise on what is deemed the more profitable back nine holes, where bogeys on 13 and 16 were bookended by birdies at the 10th and the last.
“I was frustrated because the back nine is the nine that you want to build your score on and, having played the harder nine in two-under par, I thought I’d done well there,” the 2009 ODDC champion explained. “I was a little frustrated not to get a few more birdies on that back nine, but it was a good, positive way to finish the round with a nice birdie on 18.
“It was a round that could have been much better. I still have to realise that I’m in the middle of this golf tournament and, even though it wasn’t quite as good as yesterday (Thursday), hopefully that was my bad round out of the way and I can shoot a couple of better ones over the weekend.
“It looked for a while that I could have built a three or four-shot lead, but one will have to do and I’m still in the lead of this golf tournament, so it’s not all bad.
“I’ll just go back tonight, group and realise that I’m still leading the tournament. I’m looking forward to coming back out tomorrow (Saturday) and trying to build on my lead.”
McIlroy and Koepka will tee off as the final group on the first hole at 12:45pm on Saturday.
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