Harding holds halfway lead but Hatton in full pursuit in Dubai

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Harding holds halfway lead but Hatton in full pursuit in Dubai

Justin Harding (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Justin Harding made a spectacular eagle to light up a “grinding” 68 as he took a two-shot lead into the weekend at the 2022 Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic.

The South African had to return to complete his opening round on day two and birdied the last to take a share of the 18-hole lead before a hole-out from 183 yards on the par-four sixth in round two helped him hit the front at 11 under, two clear of four-time Rolex Series champion Tyrrell Hatton.

Harding is a two-time winner on the DP World Tour but is yet to star in a Rolex Series event, with last week’s tie for 25th at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship matching his best finish.

The 35-year-old has proven he can go low at Emirates Golf Club, carding a 63 en route to a top-ten finish in 2019, and is hoping he can recreate that magic after falling away over the weekend last season.

“I’ve played this golf course well over the years,” said Harding. “Had a good final round a couple years back and was in contention last year and played badly on the Sunday. I can’t really say the golf course – it’s just one of those where you just have to get through it.

“I played quite nicely last week. Barring a bad finish, would have been a top ten result. Game seems to be close. Just a matter if I can control the putter and make some putts, we are always going to be there and thereabouts, which is nice.”

Hatton sits at nine-under par after recovering from a bogey at the first hole for the second day running with four straight birdies from the second and three more on the back nine in his 66.

“It would be pretty special to win this tournament,” he said. “I remember when I was at school, waking up early in the morning to start watching it, and it’s always been a tournament that growing up I wanted to play in. I think this is my eighth time here, and the event has been pretty kind to me with some pretty good finishes over the years. Hoping I can have a strong weekend and add to that.”

South African Erik van Rooyen and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti were then at eight under, one ahead of Ryder Cup team-mates Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy, England’s Richard Bland, Dane Joachim B. Hansen and Pole Adrian Meronk.

Defending champion Paul Casey was then in all-English group at six under alongside Marcus Armitage, Tommy Fleetwood, Sam Horsfield and Lee Westwood.

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