Friday 19 April 2019

McIlroy drives it better but he needs to step on gas in Dubai

Rory McIlroy grabs a club from his bag during the second round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Photo: Getty
Rory McIlroy grabs a club from his bag during the second round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Photo: Getty

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy regained his driving mojo but knows he must step on the gas if he's to end the season with a confidence-boosting win in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Like Paul Dunne and Shane Lowry, who are eight and nine shots behind halfway leader Matt Wallace in the $8 million desert shoot-out, McIlroy needs a hot weekend at Jumeirah Golf Estates to end his season on a high.

Tied for sixth with Francesco Molinari's lone Race to Dubai challenger, Tommy Fleetwood, and just three behind Wallace on eight-under par, he was pleased to see some progress with his driving.

"I have to be pleased," said McIlroy, who added a 67 to his opening 69 but was outscored again by his Masters Tournament nemesis Patrick Reed, who lies two shots off the pace in fifth after an immaculate 66.

"It's a massive improvement considering the golf I've played the last couple of weeks. So to shoot two scores in the 60s is great.

"The way I've driven the ball the last two days is a massive improvement compared to the way I've driven the ball over the past few months. I just want to give myself another chance to win a golf tournament. I've given myself plenty of chances this year. I just haven't capitalised on those chances.

"I need to shoot another good round tomorrow to get myself right in contention on Sunday, and hopefully if I can do that, I can play some good golf and it would be nice to win for a third time out there."

Wallace carded a bogey-free 65 to take a one-shot lead over Danny Willett and first-round leaders Adrian Otaegui and Jordan Smith on 11-under par with Reed a further shot back.

But Fleetwood, who needs a win and hope that Molinari finishes outside the top five if he's to retain his Race to Dubai title, is not giving up the chase after going bogey-free for the second day running.

He's tied for sixth with Mcllroy, South Africa's Dean Burmester and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat as Molinari's 73 left him tied for 27th with Dunne on three-under.

The Greystones man showed signs of an upturn in form before he partners Lowry in next week's ISPS Handa Melbourne World Cup of Golf in Melbourne, making four birdies in a 69 after getting a fresh perspective on his swing from Dubai-based Irish coach Justin Parsons.

"I played a lot better," Dunne told Meridian Media. "I hit two loose tee-shots - one of them didn't cost me, but the other one was on the eighth, where I lost a ball, and that was a bit of a killer.

"Other than that I hit a lot of nice tee shots and my iron play was much better today. And I am rolling the putter quite well. So if I can keep it consistent from tee to green, I can have a good score out there. If I can be 10-under par for the weekend, I will have a nice week. I will try to build off today, go out there and try to get off to a good start."

Lowry is a shot further back, tied for 33rd on two-under after making three birdies and three bogeys in an exasperating 72.

"It was a very frustrating day on the course," Lowry sighed. "I never really got it going and even playing 17, I had a perfect number there and thought one birdie in the last two and four-under mightn't be that bad.


"But I hit a horrendous tee-shot there and made a good bogey. There is nothing I can do but take it on the chin and get out there tomorrow and see what I can do.

"I need a bumper weekend. I will be going out there to make a few birdies and see what happens and try to get a bit of form on the weekend going into next week."

In the RSM Classic at Sea Island, Graeme McDowell shot a four-under 68 to share eighth place at halfway, seven shots behind leader Charles Howell III, as Pádraig Harrington and Seamus Power missed the cut by one.

Howell fired a six-under 64 to lead by three shots on 14-under-par from Jason Gore and the in-form Cameron Champ, who both shot seven-under 63s. But Power, who was five-under for the tournament after making three birdies in his first ten holes, ran up a quadruple bogey eight after two tee shots found water left at his 13th.

He then bogeyed the par-five seventh and birdied the eighth but could only par the ninth for one-over 71 to miss the two-under cut by a shot.

Harrington's first round 75 was a handicap but while he birdied four holes in a row from the fifth, he could only par his last ten holes for a four-under 66 that proved one shot too many.

DP World Tour Championship Dubai
Live, Sky Sports Golf, 7.0am

The RSM Classic
Live, Sky Sports Golf, Red Button, 6.30pm

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