McKibbin lets good start slip as McIlroy regroups in damp Dubai desert

Fatiha Betscher

Tom McKibbin (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Fatiha Betscher

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By Fatiha Betscher in Dubai.

For a second occasion in five days, Tom McKibbin’s had the scoring carpet ripped from under him, posting a 17th hole triple-bogey on day one in the rain-affected Hero Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Club in Dubai.

Six days ago, a halt to play in Abu Dhabi due to poor light left McKibbin with two holes to play and only needing to par both holes to be assured of making it five DP World Tour pay cheques from as many events.

However, as we now know in returning to the Yas Links course on Saturday, McKibbin doubled the last at Yas Links to miss the cut by a shot.

In what must have been a ‘sorry about what happened last week’ move on the DP World Tour’s part, McKibbin was out first off the 10th tee here in Dubai for a second straight $US9m Rolex Series event.

However, late afternoon rain Wednesday followed by a heavy downpour in the early hours of Thursday again created havoc in Dubai with roads flooded given there is no street drainage in this desert city.

The rain did an enormous amount of damage to the bunkering on the host Emirates Club course first forcing the Tour that there would be no play until at least 10am, with spectators banned from attending the round.

Play finally got underway at 1.15pm, a delay of six hours and 35-minutes, and under a ‘lift clean and place’ ruling.

McKibbin pared his opening eight holes but then burst up the leaderboard with four birdies in succession to move to four-under through 12 holes, the best being holing a three-footer at the 18th or the ninth hole of his round where a 230-yard second shot landed back left of the green from where he superbly chipped close for a ‘4’.

Sadly, it proved the high-water mark of his round as McKibbin gave three shots back with three bogeys in a row from his 13th hole and in coming to par-4 uphill eight hole or the 17th of his round, where he had his photograph taken with Rory McIlroy on Tuesday, he sprayed his drive well right into a bush, took a drop, failed to find the fairway with a third and flew the green with his fourth before posting a triple-bogey ‘7’.

With only three groups managing to complete their rounds and with the second half of the field yet to tee-off, McKibbin was sharing 57th place.

Two-time winning Rory McIlroy is lying at two-under par with three holes to play after a birdie from his first, the 10th hole, but dropping shots at his third and sixth holes ahead of three birdies in four holes mid-round and those being at his ninth, 11th and 12th holes.

McIlroy, playing three groups behind McKibbin, was sharing 12th place at two-under through 15 holes when play was halted.

Padraig Harrington’s day was as bad as the overnight weather with the Dubliner struggling to be eight-over after 14-holes, with a lone birdie on his card at his 11th hole.

After a great fourth place finish ‘down the road’ in Abu Dhabi, and capped by a sizzling 64, Harrington’s scorecard is already a train wreck of five bogeys and a pair of doubles.

Shane Lowry was due to be out in the afternoon half of the field but did not bother to attend the course and will now commence his round at 8.50am local time Friday.

Just 12 players or three groups managed to complete a full 18 holes, and with the English trio of Matthew Jordan, Oliver Wilson and Daniel Gavins in the clubhouse on four-under.

Belgium’s Thomas Pieters had moved to five-under through 15 holes

“The course played fair and the Tour obviously guarded against some of the conditions, and they moved a few tees forward on holes like on 12, where you normally are hitting long irons, and you’re hitting short wedges,” said Pieters.

“If you found fairways and had a ball-in-hand, it was definitely playable.”

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