A second round of 70 left Rory McIlroy two shots behind clubhouse leaders Richard Bland, Thomas Pieters and amateur Michael Thorbjornsen after his second round at the Dubai Desert Classic. With a handful of players still out on the course, the trio were sitting at 10-under, good for a one stroke lead over Marcus Kinhult on nine-under.
McIlroy, who finished one shot further back at eight-under for the tournament, had an uneventful front nine on Saturday morning, taking the turn at one-under for the day after a lone birdie at the par five third. That shot was lost after a bogey on the 10th, another par five, but McIlroy undid some of the damage with an eagle 13, judging his put from distance nicely to drop to two-under for the day.
The Holywood golfer had a chance to pick up one final stroke on the 18th to move within one of the lead, only for his birdie put to stay out after catching the edge of the hole.
“I think I only hit two fairways today,” said McIlroy on a day when he couldn’t match the low scoring of the leaders. “So once you - when you can’t hit fairways around here, and the rough is quite thick, it’s very hard to have any control of your ball and get it close into par fours.
“Yeah, just a little rusty. Yeah, need to go do a little work.
“Look, I chipped and putted it well, and I sort of, you know, got myself around the golf course okay. Being able to post a couple of decent scores and at least have a chance going into the last two days. But definitely more negatives than positives and need to go and figure it out on the range.
“I’ve scrambled well this week. I really needed to scramble well on Thursday, and then again today in some spots.
“So I think it’s nice when you’re not feeling on your game you have a short game to sort of bail you out, and I think that’s the reason why I’m still not too far away from the lead.”
With the projected cut mark on Saturday sitting at two-under, Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington’s weekends look set to be over with both sitting over par at one-over and three-over respectively. It is a cruel end for Harrington in particular who picked up seven birdies and a bogey through 17 holes of his second round. His nine-over effort of 81 in the first round looks likely to cost him a spot over the rest of the weekend.
Lowry carded a second round 75, three over for the day which leaves him three shots outside the cut line as things stand.