Fatiha Betscher reports from Dubai
Padraig Harrington’s quest to qualify for next week’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship bizarrely just gets better and again without the Irishman hitting a shot.
Harrington found his way inside the top-20 on day two of the final event of the ‘regular’ European Tour season in posting a five-under par 67 for a combined nine-under par 36 hole in continuing sauna-like conditions in the AVIV Dubai Championship on the aptly named Fire course at Jumeirah Estates in Dubai.
Defending Dubai champion Antoine Rozner, with Irish caddy Darren Reynolds on the bag, produced another stunning bogey-free display with the Parisienne adding a 64 to his opening 65 and move one clear of the field on 15-under par.
Rozner, 28, has had two wins on the bag with Reynolds calling the shots, capturing last year’s AVIV Dubai Championship and then winning earlier this year the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
“Darren’s been on the bag for two years now and he brings an awful lot of experience to my game,” said Rozner. “He’s won out here before and he’s brought a good mindset into my game and especially this week and on this golf course as you have to be aggressive. So, Darren helps me a lot”.
Tied in second place at 14-under par is Italian Francesco Laporta, who added a second day 64 to his first round 66 while overnight leader Dane Joachim B. Hansen has scores of 63 and 67.
Harrington’s round was a mix of seven birdies and two bogeys and he had this to say; “It was an okay round though I struggled there on the last five holes, so nice to finish with a birdie.
“Though I three-putted 14 and that set me back and thinking about it, I had three three-putts today but then nine-under, I guess, it’s still right up there.
“What am I, six behind? So hopefully. I need another nine-under over the weekend”.
Harrington had arrived in Dubai lying 58th in the Race to Dubai money list and jumped two places to 56th on the standings when it was advised Sergio Garcia (43rd) and Patrick Reed (49th) would not appear on the money list as they did not satisfy a minimum number of events criteria.
Now after Harrington’s second round on the Fire course the European Tour have advised the withdrawal late on Friday (UAE time) of Victor Hovland (11th) and Justin Rose (22nd) on the Tour’s money-list standings, meaning the cut-off point will now move from 51st to 53rd on Race to Dubai.
At the start of the week, Harrington thought he needed a top-seven finish to qualify for the DP World decider and then in moving to 56th, he adjusted that to a top-10 and now he’s probably staring at a top-12 finish to join Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry next week.
“The thing is you just have to keep the foot down on the birdie pedal as this course is all about making birdies, so if I can shoot a similar nine-under or better over the weekend, I should be okay”, Harrington added.
“It’s always great to be playing on the weekend but it would be nice playing on the weekend and not having to think about needing to finish top-10 or higher.”
Jonathan Caldwell headed to a well-earned lunch on the back of eight birdies to jump nearly 40 places following his opening score of 71 to be just inside the top-50 at six-under par.
Caldwell surprisingly is competing in his first Tour event in the UAE and as reported post his opening round, there’s a real spring in the Irishman’s step teeing-up as a winner this year on the 2021 Race to Dubai schedule.
He was two-under par through eight holes, including birdies at seven and eight, and made his score with five birdies over his closing seven holes. Though sticking out like a sore thumb is a double-bogey ‘5’ at the par-3 14th sandwiched between birdies on 12 and 13 and also at 14 and 15.
Caldwell hit a wedge to five-feet at the 15th while and a lob-wedge to 15 feet at 16 while at the 17th he was short of the green and chipped to within tap-in distance.
“It was a very solid round and very happy though there were one or two poor holes, like three-putting the second and then hitting a terrible tee shot at the 14th that found the water but I recovered with three nice birdies coming in”, he said.
“So, very pleased with my finish as I was right in the cut line after the double but not now after the three birdies. I was just good yesterday but just played much better today, and it’s more about the grain in the greens as the greens are very grainy but apart from that, it’s a pretty generous golf course off the tee.
“It’s just about making the putts and not short-siding yourself and the great thing is it’s more weekend work and that’s the main thing”.