Dubai Desert Classic: McIlroy keeps hopes alive


Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his second shot on the first hole during the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic. — AP
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his second shot on the first hole during the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic. — AP

Published: Sat 28 Jan 2023, 9:31 PM

Last updated: Sat 28 Jan 2023, 9:32 PM

Rory McIlroy wasted no time after his round to rush to the driving range. The driver – which is the cornerstone of his game – has been misbehaving and needs to be set right if he wants to give himself a chance to become only the second player after Ernie Els to win a third Hero Dubai Desert Classic title.

By Joy Chakravarty

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The world No1 – followed by a mesmerised crowd of thousands as the sun finally returned to its usual Dubai glory – shot a two-under-par 70 round that keeps him in contention.

He is tied seventh at eight-under par, just two behind the leaders, but was left frustrated about his inability to take advantage of the soft conditions at the Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club in Saturday’s second round.

McIlroy found just two fairways off the tee. On a day when preferred lie (where players are allowed to pick up their balls on fairways, clean the mud and place it) rules were in play, it was a cardinal mistake.

The ball cannot be lifted and cleaned when in the rough, which is where McIlroy found himself for the most part.

It was a far cry from Friday’s stunning finish when he closed his opening round with a birdie-eagle-birdie finish. At least he gave his fans a stunning eagle – on the par-5 13th – where he drained a 34-footer putt. But the round also included a bogey on a par-5 (11th) and the fact that he could not make a birdie on the 18th and made a bogey on the 10th hole.

“It’s not been great. Going to do a little bit of work here on the range and try and figure it out,” said McIlroy.

“It’s just a little bit of timing. Obviously, it’s early in the year, first tournament back. Just try to figure something out, go with it over the next two days and see if I can straighten it out.”

McIlroy acknowledged that his scoring could have been worse, if not for his solid short game.

“I think that’s been a big key to my game over the last sort of 12 months. My short game has been good. My putting has been good. Even when the long game isn’t there, it’s been able to bail me out and sort of keep me there or thereabouts,” said the four-time major champion, who won his first professional title at the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic.

“I certainly didn’t feel like I deserved to shoot 6-under when I came off the course yesterday (Friday). Today was sort of a little more reflective of how I played. It would have been nice to get away with a couple birdies on the last two holes, but I thought 70 was probably a fair reflection of how the day went.”

McIlroy tees off for his third round on Sunday at 11:42 UAE time with Austria’s Bernd Weisberger and England’s Dan Bradbury.

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