Friday 19 January 2018

Rory McIlroy finishes in style to stay in hunt after flinging ball in lake

Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy tossed his ball into a lake after making a poor start to his Dubai Desert Classic second round yesterday before four birdies in the last six holes banished any fears that he might miss the cut.

The World No 2, who is six shots adrift of leader Rafa Cabrera-Bello, dropped a stroke at the first hole and threw his ball away in disgust after three-putting the fourth.

Defending champion McIlroy then mixed a birdie at the fifth with more dropped strokes at the eighth, ninth and 11th before staging a late rally.

"I struggled in the wind a little bit," the four-time Major winner said after carding a level-par 72 for a four-under tally of 140.

"I bounced back well and persevered and got something out of the round in the end. It never looked like I was going to shoot better than over-par but to shoot par is not bad and I just need to make sure I get off to a fast start tomorrow.

"I've come back from bigger deficits than this and this is one of my favourite places," added McIlroy (right), who also won the tournament in 2009. "I'll get better conditions, as well, being out a little earlier."

Twice European Tour winner Cabrera-Bello hailed "one of the best putting rounds of my life" after shooting a second successive 67 to set the pace on 10-under 134.

The Spaniard, who won the Desert Classic four years ago, had only 26 putts in his round.

"Yesterday I really felt I played great from tee to green," said Cabrera-Bello. "I gave myself lots of chances. Today was the exact opposite, I didn't play as well, but the putting was extremely hot."

A month after fearing for his future in the game, Ernie Els cruised into contention for a fourth victory in the tournament.

Els missed the cut in the BMW SA Open in January after suffering another attack of the "yips" in the first round, the 46-year-old's par putt from 18 inches on the ninth not even touching the hole.

The four-time Major winner missed two similar putts in the space of a month towards the end of last season and, with anchored strokes banned since January 1, was unable to revert to the belly putter with which he won the last of his Major titles in the 2012 Open.

However, Els was determined that the problem would not mean the end of his stellar career and has quickly adapted to a cross-handed putting method which was certainly paying dividends at Emirates Golf Club.

Starting his second round on the back nine after an opening 68, Els birdied the par-five 13th and holed from 15 feet for an eagle on the 18th, before picking up further shots on the third and fifth in a fine 67 for a share of second place alongside Trevor Fisher (68) and Danny Willett (65).

Els, who has slipped to 205th in the world rankings after two years without a win, said: "I feel like I'm looking forward to the weekend. I'm not dreading the greens. That's where I've been for the last two or three years since I won the Open.

"I have been feeling better and better since the first week of the season, where it was pretty bad, because from 18 inches I was dodgy. To make the changes that I have made, drastic changes in the putting set-up, the grip and so forth, and now to be feeling very comfortable and confident is an about-turn, isn't it?"

At the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Padraig Harrington missed the cut after his second-round 72 left him on four-over - four shots off the projected cut. Paul Dunne's two-round total of one-over also put him in danger of not making the weekend, while Shane Lowry maintained his challenge for the lead after a bright start to his opening holes.

Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.30am

Waste Management Phoenix Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.00pm

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