Rory McIlroy overcomes quadruple bogey to regain lead at Dubai Invitational

A nightmare eighth hole led to a seven on a par 3, but he still leads by two shots after a 70

To err is human, as Rory McIlroy – seemingly in robotic mode for much of his journey around the palm trees and manicured fairways of the Dubai Creek Golf Club – proved in a couple of rare indiscretions during the second round of the inaugural Dubai Invitational, where the world number two nevertheless reached the halfway point as the outright leader.

The only blip on an otherwise flawless card was, however, a rather ugly quadruple bogey, a seven which came on the 214-yard par 3 eighth hole of a second round 70 that ultimately saw him reach the 36-hole point on 10-under-par 132, two strokes clear of closest pursuers Yannik Paul and Jeff Winthers.

McIlroy, starting his year’s work with back-to-back events in the UAE before switching to the PGA Tour, was in cruise control when he ventured on to the eighth tee. Four shots clear, indeed, at the time and looking set to create clear daylight between him and everyone else.

Then, it all unravelled. A seven-iron tee-shot turned in the wind and plunged into the lake. On moving up to the drop zone, with only a wedge in hand for his third shot, McIlroy came up short of the green and his ball spun back into the water.


What could he do? McIlroy’s reaction was to bend forward, hands on both knees, in disbelief and then to look for some answers from caddie Harry Diamond. He was with a quizzical expression, the bagman equally bemused by the events and the displays of human frailty.

McIlroy eventually found the green with his fifth shot and two-putted for a quadruple bogey seven that brought him back into the pack. Following his opening round 62, the 34-year-old Northern Irishman had strengthened his title challenge with birdies on the third (where he got up and down from a bunker) and the fourth only for that quadruple bogey to force him to recalibrate.

“I think if I look at the other 17 holes that I played, I played very, very well again,” claimed McIlroy, adding: “I hit some good iron shots; played not too dissimilarly to the way I played yesterday. I maybe holed a couple more putts yesterday. But the condition were getting a little trickier, the wind was up, [and] greens were firm and I’d a couple miscues on the eighth hole.

“I felt like I did well just to get my head back into it and play some solid golf on the way in, and everyone seemed to find it a little more difficult today than yesterday. So it’s nice to go into the weekend still with the lead,” said McIlroy.

On a day of swirling winds, a bogey-free homeward run with birdies on the 10th – “that was big,” he later observed – 13th and 16th holes enabled McIlroy to come back in 33 for a 70 for 132 that put him back into control of his own destiny going into the final two rounds.

McIlroy, without a win since his Genesis Scottish Open success last July, claimed a two strokes lead over Paul and Winther with a quintet of players, among them fellow Ryder Cupper Tommy Fleetwood, bunched in tied-fourth just three shots behind the tournament leader.

Fleetwood defied any effect of jet lag following his journey onwards from last week’s Sentry tournament in Maui on the PGA Tour to overcome some frustrations with his putter and get on to the coat tails of McIlroy.

“It was frustrating for, I would say, the first 12, 13 holes. I was poor on the greens, missed a short putt on 16 and a couple of more chances. I didn’t feel like I was putting that bad but you’ve got to it in the hole and I wasn’t doing that ... I’m pretty happy in the end, considering it was frustrating,” said Fleetwood.

Winther, who shot a 66, the joint best score of the second round along with Joost Luiten, has only one win on the DP World Tour and was “surprised” at his showing given that he hadn’t played since the Mauritius Open and also that last week was spent celebrating his wife’s 40th birthday.

“This was actually just a warm-up for me,” explained Winther, ahead of next week’s Dubai Desert Classic, adding: “I’m just here to enjoy.” The laid-back demeanour, however, has obviously benefited the Dane as he enters the weekend in the mix.

Tom McKibbin, playing for the first time with Callaway clubs after making the switch from TaylorMade over the short winter break, shot a bogey-free second round 69 – his two birdies coming on the ninth (from seven feet) and 17th (from three feet) – for a midway total of 140, two-under-par, in tied-20th.

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Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times