Gritty McIlroy digs deep to hold fast to two-stoke lead in Dubai Invitational

Northern Irish golfer says it’s nice to go into the weekend at the Dubai Creek Resort still ahead of the chasing pack

By Nick Tarratt/ Khaleej Times Guest Golf Writer

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Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 7th hole during the second round of the $2.5m Dubai Invitational golf tournament at the Dubai Creek Resort. - AP
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 7th hole during the second round of the $2.5m Dubai Invitational golf tournament at the Dubai Creek Resort. - AP

Published: Fri 12 Jan 2024, 6:47 PM

Rory McIlroy overcame windy conditions and a quadruple-bogey to hang on to his two-shot lead heading into the weekend at the $ 2.5 million Dubai Invitational.

The World Number Two had dominated the first day in the desert, carding a bogey-free 62 to begin the defence of his Race to Dubai title.

He would not have it all his way in round two at Dubai Creek Resort, however, going from four ahead to a four-way tie at the top after finding the water twice at the eighth.

But he is not a four-time Major Champion for nothing and three birdies on the back nine saw him sign for a 70 and lead the way from German Yannik Paul and Dane Jeff Winther at ten under.

McIlroy has a fine record in the UAE, winning three Dubai Desert Classics - including the first of his 16 DP World Tour titles in 2009 - and two DP World Tour Championships. He will defend the HERO Dubai Desert Classic title that brought him his first Rolex Series win next week and feels his game is in a good place.

annik Paul of Germany lis in second place at the Dubai Invitational. - AFP File
annik Paul of Germany lis in second place at the Dubai Invitational. - AFP File

“I think if I look at the other 17 holes that I played, I played very, very well again,” he said. “Hit some good iron shots.

“Played not too dissimilarly to the way I played yesterday. I maybe holed a couple more putts yesterday but the conditions were getting a little trickier. The wind was up, the greens were firm and I had a couple of miscues on the eighth hole.

“The tenth was big. I had a chance to bounce back on nine that I missed but ten was big. The two shots into 13 were big too,” the Northern Irish professional golfer added.

“And to make two relatively easy birdies and then I give myself chances most of the back nine, which was nice, and I was able to convert a couple before that tough finishing stretch there on 17 and 18.

“I felt like I did well just to get my head back into it and play some solid golf on the way in and everyone seemed to find it a little more difficult today than yesterday. So it's nice to go into the weekend still with the lead,” he said summing up the round.

McIlroy and Paul picked up where they had left off on Thursday, with Paul holing a 20-footer on the second and getting up and down on the par-five fourth, while McIlroy birdied the driveable third despite finding sand off the tee.

Paul then bogeyed the fifth, eighth and ninth to tumble down the leaderboard and after a two-putt gain on the fourth, McIlroy led by four at 11 under.

That soon changed, however, as he found water off the tee twice at the par-three eighth and the quadruple bogey seven dropped him into a four-way tie at the top.

Winther was part of that group as he hit a smart approach into the third, got up and down on the fourth, made a two-putt gain on the par-five tenth and holed a 15-foot putt on the 11th.

Another two-putt birdie on the par-five 13th moved him to eight under but he was joined there by McIlroy, who got up and down at the tenth.

A 17-footer brought another Winther gain on the 15th but McIlroy two-putted the 15th and led alone when Winther made his only bogey of the week so far after a poor tee-shot on the last to sign for a 66.

A 30-footer on the 16th then moved McIlroy back into red numbers for the day and he had regained the two-shot lead with which he teed off.

And he would not be the only one to stage an impressive comeback, as Paul made the most of the tenth after laying up and put his tee-shot to 11 feet on the par-three 16th in a 70.

English duo Dubai resident Tommy Fleetwood and Jordan Smith, South African pair Thriston Lawrence and Zander Lombard and Dane Thorbjørn Olesen were at seven under, a shot clear of another Dane in Rasmus Højgaard.

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In the team event, Tournament Host Abdulla Al Naboodah led the way by two shots after contributing three birdies and a par in a 67 alongside Pablo Larrazábal and will play with McIlroy in Saturday's final team round.

The tee times are 8.00 am until the leaders go out last at 10.39 am off tees one and ten.

Leading Round Two Scores

(7,059 Yards, Par 71).

McIlroy (NI) 62. 70. 132.

Paul (Ger) 64. 70. 134.

Winther (Den) 68. 66. 134.

Oleson (Den) 66, 69. 135.

Fleetwood (Eng) 66. 69. 135.

Smith (Eng) 68. 67. 135.

Lawrence (RSA) 65. 70. 135.

Lombard (RSA) 67. 68. 135


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