Thursday 12 December 2019

Majestic McIlroy back with a bang as he shares lead in Dubai

Rory McIlroy is back in action in Dubai after a six-week break
Rory McIlroy is back in action in Dubai after a six-week break

World number one Rory McIlroy made light of a six-week lay-off to claim a share of the lead in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai today.

McIlroy carded six birdies and no bogeys in a flawless 66 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates to finish alongside Ireland's Shane Lowry in the £5.1million event.

That took the 25-year-old to an amazing 80 under par for his 21 rounds to date in this event, after previous finishes of third, fifth, 11th, first and fifth.

McIlroy had not played since finishing joint second in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the first week of October, withdrawing from scheduled appearances in the first two Final Series events in China to prepare for his upcoming court case with a former management company.

So it was perhaps no surprise that the four-time major winner had taken to Twitter earlier in the day to write: "Just under 3 hours until I hit my first competitive golf shot in 6 weeks. To say I'm excited is an understatement. £imready."

McIlroy, who wrapped up the Race to Dubai title for the second time in three years with a week to spare, certainly looked ready as he birdied four of his first five holes, the only aberration coming when he missed from eight feet on the third.

A surprising run of nine successive pars followed before birdies at the 15th and 16th ensured he delivered on his promise not to rest on his laurels at the end of a phenomenal season.

Lowry birdied four of the last six holes as he looked to make amends for his collapse in the final round in Turkey on Sunday, when he eagled the fourth to claim a share of the lead only to triple bogey the next hole and make a double bogey on the sixth.

"The whole day Sunday and the flight down here you're thinking about it," Lowry admitted. "It's one of those things. But I gave myself a chance to win last week. If I can give myself a chance to win again this week, maybe I'll do it.

"I have been playing well for most of the year. I've been very consistent. I've been shooting some great scores, making a lot of birdies and I did that today again."

Scotland's Richie Ramsay and Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen were a shot off the pace on five under, with defending champion Henrik Stenson another stroke back alongside Argentina's Emiliano Grillo.

Ramsay said: "I'm really happy. Obviously it was a great start, three birdies on the spin, and then played lovely in the middle, had a lot of chances but just didn't take a few.

"But most important was I stayed patient, stayed with it. I kept on hitting good shots and then took a couple of chances on 14 and 15 and then finished off pretty solid coming down the stretch.

"I played great in the middle part of the season. I know the game is there. (It's) just a matter of staying out of my own way and committing to it."

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