I putted fantastic, says American Young after sensationally grabbing the lead at HERO Dubai Desert Classic

Meronk and Sullivan nearest challengers as McIlroy falls back to be tied for 24th with two rounds to play at the Emirates Golf Club

By Nick Tarratt / Khaleej Times Guest Golf Writer

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Cameron Young of USA plays his second shot on the 13th hole during the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai on Friday. - AFP
Cameron Young of USA plays his second shot on the 13th hole during the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai on Friday. - AFP

Published: Fri 19 Jan 2024, 7:56 PM

Cameron Young will take a three-shot lead into the championship rounds at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic after firing a stunning 64 on day two at Emirates Golf Club on the DP World Tour.

The World Number 25 is making his debut at this event but has made himself feel right at home, carding 14 birdies and an eagle over the first two rounds to get to an impressive 13-under for the tournament.

That includes a remarkable run of scoring after being level par after his first 12 holes of the week, picking up 14 shots in his next 22 to fly up the leaderboard.

Dubai-based Pole Adrian Meronk and England's Andy Sullivan were the nearest challengers after rounds of 66 and 67 respectively, with Danish twins Nicolai and Rasmus Højgaard and Scotland's Richie Ramsay at seven under.

Fans thronged the Emirates Golf Club for the HERO Dubai Desert Classic. - KT Photo by Shihab
Fans thronged the Emirates Golf Club for the HERO Dubai Desert Classic. - KT Photo by Shihab

Rory McIlroy fell back to be tied for 24th with eleven other players while veteran Pádraig Harrington missed the cut after a horrendous seven-over 79 and first-round leader Haotong LI also slipped to 17th.

Young has two runner-up finishes on the DP World Tour at the 2022 Open Championship and 2023 WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play to go with four more on the PGA Tour but has yet to add to his two Korn Ferry Tour victories from 2021. A Rolex Series triumph would be a spectacular way to return to the winner's circle and the 26-year-old believes the putter was key to getting him in pole position.

“I putted fantastic,” he said. “I made a couple of long ones yesterday and then made a few more today that had no right going in.

Danish golfer Nicolai Højgaard was tied for third after round two. - KT Photo by Shihab
Danish golfer Nicolai Højgaard was tied for third after round two. - KT Photo by Shihab

“I hit a bunch of good putts but it was just one of those days where you kind of have a couple of 30-footers and you look up and they are going right in the middle, which doesn't happen all that often to have a bunch of them in one round.

“I feel like the back nine, I just played really solidly, and then made a putt on one, made a putt on four and all of a sudden that was eight (under) or something,” he added.

“Just one of those days that they kept kind of going in and I didn't make too many mistakes.”

Sullivan made the first big move of the day, birdieing the first with a tap-in and getting up and down from the waste area on the par-five third but was soon joined by Young, who holed a 20-footer on the 12th and made a two-putt gain on the par-five 13th.

Rory McIlroy endured a tough day on Friday. - KT Photo by Shihab.
Rory McIlroy endured a tough day on Friday. - KT Photo by Shihab.

An approach to 12 feet from Sullivan on the sixth was then followed by a tee shot to slightly longer range on the next and when he got inside ten feet on the eighth, the 36-year-old had a hat-trick of gains and a three-shot lead.

“I didn't think I would ever be coming off disappointed sitting at 10-under after two rounds,” he said. “But after that start today, I just got literally picked up from where I left off yesterday and hit a lot of golf shots to sort of ten, 15 feet, rolled it lovely and then going into the back nine, I got three par 5s.

“Felt like I had a chance of really going low and didn't quite drive it as good on the back nine and hit it as close. Like I say, it's hard to be disappointed when you're 10-under after two rounds.”

Young was just getting going, however, and he hit an approach in tight at the 16th, put another to inside four feet at the 17th and made a two-putt birdie on the par-five 18th to share the top spot.

Kids enjoy a day out at Tournament Town at the Emirates Golf Club, - KT Photo by Shihab
Kids enjoy a day out at Tournament Town at the Emirates Golf Club, - KT Photo by Shihab

A fourth birdie in a row on the first from 15 feet had him alone at the summit and while Sullivan joined him as he took advantage of the 13th, he gave the shot back on the 15th.

That allowed Young to pull away, and a deft chip set up a birdie at the third before he put tee-shots inside ten feet on the par-three fourth and seventh to lead by four.

He found the water on the last to see his lead trimmed but remained very much in control heading into the final two days.

Playing in the afternoon, Meronk put an approach to 15 feet at the third, got up and down from the sand at the fourth and put a tee shot inside ten feet at the seventh to turn in 32.

A pair of smart pitches after lay-ups at the tenth and 13th were followed by an up-and-down at the driveable 17th before he missed a golden opportunity from four feet at the last to get into a solo second.

Nicolai Højgaard signed for a 69, one shot fewer than his brother, while Ramsay carded a 68 to sit a shot ahead of a group of eight players including Japan's Masahiro Kawamura, who played the back nine in 29 after starting on the tenth and was ten under after 12 holes before signing for a 63.

Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald made the sixth hole-in-one of the season and second of his DP World career when he holed an eight iron from 183 yards on the fourth.

The first tee time is off tomorrow at 7.06 am with the leaders out last at 12.45 pm in two balls.

Round Two Leaders

(7,428 Yards, Par 72)

Young (US) 67. 64. 131.

Sullivan (Eng) 67. 67. 134.

Meronk (Pol) 68. 66. 134.

Hojgaard (Den) 68. 69. 137.

Ramsay (Scot) 69. 68. 137.

Hojgaard (Den) 67. 70. 137.


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