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Shane Lowry leads in Dubai after stunning 65 with Rory McIlroy just one shot back


Shane Lowry of Ireland waves at the 18th green as he finishes his round

Shane Lowry of Ireland waves at the 18th green as he finishes his round

Shane Lowry of Ireland waves at the 18th green as he finishes his round

Rory McIlroy might have finished with double-bogey seven, but Shane Lowry still expects the Holywood star to be tough to beat after a bogey-free, seven-under 65 gave him a share of the halfway lead in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

The Offaly man made five birdies and spectacularly holed a greenside flop shot for an eagle three at the 14th to share top spot with American John Catlin and England's Sam Horsfield on 10-under par.

McIlroy was not quite at his best, but he still led by a shot on 11-under par until he drove into a bunker at the par-five 18th, then saw his third shot kick left into the water, resulting in a double-bogey seven and a two-under 70 that left him a shot behind the leading trio, tied for fourth with Sweden’s Alexander Bjork on nine-under.

As for Lowry, he played almost flawlessly for the second day running, missing only one green in regulation (the 10th by a foot) with the highlight his hole out for eagle at the 14th.

"That was one of my better ones," he said of the eagle, where he was short-sided left of the green, lying against the grain but cut his 58-degree wedge high in the air and watched it land just off the green, run towards the hole, hit the flag and drop.

"That was top drawer. That was as good a chip as I hit in a while. I knew when I missed it over there, it was going to be difficult. And it was one of those, I saw the shot, and I just went for it. That's what you need to do, and that's what I did."

He added: "I would've been happy to get to 10 feet, but it just popped up and came out lovely and managed to hit the flag and go in for a Brucie bonus."

Lowry arrived in Dubai on the back of two missed cuts in his last two PGA Tour starts.

But he's determined to finish the season on a high by challenging for his first win since The Open in 2019.

"I've struggled the last few weeks, and I've probably should've taken a couple weeks off and prepared to come down here," Lowry said of post-Ryder Cup fatigue.

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"I spoke to (Lee Westwood) Westy last week and I spoke to Tyrrell (Hatton) and he said after France, he really struggled for a few months. It's something that I wasn't aware of.

"Since I won The Open in Portrush, I've spent the next two years trying to make the Ryder Cup team. Obviously, I didn't do what I wanted to do and win, but I feel like I left it all in Whistling Straits and then I just came back out running on fumes.

"Not making any excuses, but thankfully I'm near the top of the leaderboard, and it'll give me something to go out and fight for and hopefully, I can have a good week.

"What would it mean to win a tournament like this? It would be huge. This is one of our marquee events in Europe. It's one of those that you want to be playing in at the start of the year, but I've got some pretty stiff competition there at the top of the leaderboard.

"I am sure Rory is going to give it a good go, and hopefully, I can finish up there on Sunday."

McIlroy will not be left wanting for motivation when he tees it up in round three with Race to Dubai leader and Open champion Collin Morikawa, tied sixth on eight-under with Martin Kaymer after a brace of 68s, after a very mixed second round.

He found just five fairways but still made five birdies and a bogey to lead on 11-under until he drove up the face of a bunker at the 18th, blasted out and then saw his approach from 211 yards land on a sideslope and kick left into the water from where he failed to get up and down after a drop.

"It wasn't the greatest way to finish, and I was just sort of holding it together most of the day," McIlroy said after his double-bogey finish. "I was a little scrappier than it was yesterday but felt like I was doing okay.

"And yeah, it would have been nice to finish off a bit better, but I'm still right in the golf tournament.

"Look, I'm playing nicely. I started well again today and hit a lot of good shots on the front nine. It was sort of a little scrappy around the middle, but I was able to hang in there with my short game. So the good stuff is in there.

"I still feel like I played well, and I feel like 70 is sort of the worst I could have shot today, especially with the finish and hopefully that's the bad one out of the way."

Former Dubai Duty Free Irish Open champion Catlin made eight birdies in a seven-under 65 as Horsfield shot 66 to share the lead with Lowry on 10-under.

The Clara man birdied the first and fifth to turn in two-under before playing a five-hole stretch in the middle of the back nine in a brilliant five-under-par.

After hitting his second to five feet at the 11th, Lowry made a 27-footer for a two at the 13th, pitched in for that eagle at the 14th, then made a 10-footer after another perfectly judged iron shot to the 15th.

"It was nice," he said. "It felt pretty easy, which was nice. Some days it's harder than others and today was one of those days where it felt pretty easy, and I am very happy with my result."

As for his plans for the weekend, he said: "Just keep doing what I'm doing. For me personally, it's two more days left at the end of a long year and a half, I suppose, a long couple years.

"I'm looking forward to giving everything and leaving it on the course this weekend, and hopefully, I'm there near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.”

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