Thursday 5 December 2019

Roller-coaster day leaves McIlroy and Lowry playing catch-up in Dubai

Rory McIlroy is ‘still in with a shout’. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy is ‘still in with a shout’. Photo: Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry suffered on golf's never-ending roller-coaster but still have a chance to achieve their goals in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

McIlroy followed his brilliant opening 64 with a 74 - just his 10th round over par all year - in breezy conditions at Jumeirah Golf Estates to fall back to tied fifth on six-under.

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He's six strokes behind playing partner Mike Lorenzo-Vera, who extended his lead to three shots over Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood with an impressive 69.

But like Lowry, whose two late bogeys felt like "a kick in the teeth" despite carding a 68 to move up to 13th in his bid for a top-two finish, he's confident he can challenge for his fifth win this season.

"Look, it's a very fickle game," said McIlroy, who struggled with the left side of the golf course in a testing breeze and managed just a brace of birdie fours against two bogeys and a double-bogey five after a visit to water at the short sixth.

"I've always said that one day it can seem very easy and someone up there says, no, not so fast, and brings you back down to earth.

"That's golf. I battled through it. I'm still in with a shout to have a go at winning this tournament.

"I just need to stick the head down over the weekend and get in there and try to shoot a couple good scores."

Lorenzo-Vera put the blinkers on to avoid getting dragged into a ball-striking contest with McIlroy and came up trumps as he mixed six birdies with three bogeys to lead on 12-under par.

"I've played with him a few times in competition, and I struggled with him in the beginning because I over-play," said the Frenchman (34), who has yet to win on the European Tour. "That was the game-plan today. Don't look at him. He's going to hit bombs. He's going to hit incredible iron shots sky high and stuff, and that's not my game."

Rahm eagled the last to post a 69 and share second on nine-under with Fleetwood, who shot 68, keeping alive their hopes of overhauling Bernd Wiesberger in the Race to Dubai.

"I was jealous of Rory yesterday, so I tried to copy that," joked the Spaniard who can win the Race to Dubai if he finishes solo second, Wiesberger finishes worse than a two-way tie for fifth place, and neither Fleetwood, Lowry nor Matthew Fitzpatrick wins the event.

Fleetwood can become European No 1 for the second time if he wins the tournament and Wiesberger finishes worse than solo second, or if he finishes solo second and Wiesberger finishes worse than a three-way tie for third place.

The Austrian is tied for 13th on three-under and Lowry can win the Race to Dubai if he finishes solo second, Wiesberger finishes worse than solo 19th and Rahm, Fleetwood and Fitzpatrick fail to win. The Open champion was six-under with four holes to go and on track for the best round of the day before he three-putted the 16th from long-range and then tugged a wedge into the water and took six at the 18th.

"Obviously I am very disappointed with my finish on the last few holes," said Lowry, who raced out of the blocks with three birdies to start and picked up three more shots at the 10th, 11th and 14th before his late mistakes.

"I had a very good score going and I was playing my way nicely back into the tournament, and it was a bit of a kick in the teeth the way it finished.

"I am bitterly disappointed right now with how I finished, but that is how the game has been treating me over the last few weeks. I feel I am doing the right things and not getting rewarded, and it's just been quite difficult.

"But you just have to get on with it. No matter how I feel, it's not going to change the fact that I shot 68 and I need to go out and shoot the best score I can tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Seamus Power made seven birdies in a five-under 65 but missed the cut in the PGA Tour's RSM Classic at Sea Island in Georgia. The West Waterford man (32) could not undo the damage of his opening 75 on the Plantation Course and finished two shots outside the cut mark on two-under-par.

Tyler Duncan (30) fired a nine-under par 61 on the Seaside Course to lead by two shots on 14-under.

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