Cameron Young leads the way in Dubai with Dubliner Paul McBride on the bag

Rory McIlroy well back as Pádraig Harrington misses the cut in Dubai after nightmare 79

Maybe all Cameron Young needed was a little help from a friend, the sidekick in question being Dubliner – and former Wake Forest University team-mate – Paul McBride.

For the American – who has two runner-up career finishes in Majors but is still yet to win a tournament on a main tour, either on the PGA Tour or the DP World Tour – reached the midpoint of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic in the UAE in control of his own destiny after entrusting his old college buddy McBride with stand-in caddying duties in the Rolex Series event.

Young, the world number 25, signed for a well-crafted 64 to reach the midpoint of the €8 million tournament at the Emirates Golf Club on 13-under-par 131, three strokes clear of Andy Sullivan and Adrian Meronk.

But if Rory McIlroy is to have any chance of successfully defending his title, he’ll have to produce something special over the weekend after the world number two – struggling to find his spark – added a second-round 70 to his opening 71 for a 36-holes total of 141 (in tied-24th), all of 10 shots behind Young.


Although chasing his own professional playing ambitions, McBride – a former Walker Cup player who competes on the developmental Alps Tour and on the Challenge Tour when such opportunities arise – accepted the call from Young, a team-mate from their days together at Wake Forest in North Carolina, to caddie for him in the desert. So far, the symmetry between the two has worked like a dream.

Still looking for a breakthrough win on the PGA Tour, 27-year-old native New Yorker Young – who did win twice on the Korn Ferry Tour to get his PGA Tour card and then claimed Rookie of the Year honours on the US circuit in 2022 – showed his pedigree with a superb round where his putter worked its magic time and time again.

“I putted fantastic. I made a couple long ones yesterday and then made a few more today that those had no right going in, I feel like. I hit a bunch of good putts but just one of those days where you kind of have a couple 30-footers and you look up and they are going right in the middle, which doesn’t happen all that often, to have a bunch of them in one round. But really nicely and putted great. I’m doing a really good job of just staying out of my own way,” said Young.

Young’s decision to make a debut appearance in the Desert Classic – and to have McBride as stand-in caddie – would appear to be an inspired one, as he heads into the weekend with a three-shot lead over his nearest pursuers and 10 shots clear of pre-tournament favourite McIlroy, who is chasing a fourth win in the tournament.

McIlroy again seemed out of sorts, finding only two of 14 fairways – his wild drive on the eighth, which led to a bogey, telling its own tale – which contributed to him putting pressure on his short game by finding only 10 greens in regulation.

Tom McKibbin continued his run of successfully making cuts – four out of four so far this season, going back to the Australian PGA before Christmas – in signing for a 70 to add to his opening 72 to reach the midpoint on two-under-par 142 in tied-37th position. Pádraig Harrington, however, struggled to a 79 for 152 to miss the cut.

In the HGV Tournament of Champions at Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida on the LPGA Tour, Leona Maguire produced a solid second-round level par 72 to reach the halfway mark of the season opener on 144, which had her in tied-26th in the limited field of 35 confined to players who won tournaments in the past two seasons.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times