McIlroy left to carry Irish hopes into closing two Hero Dubai Desert Classic rounds 

Fatiha Betscher

Rory McIlroy (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Fatiha Betscher

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by Fatiha Betscher, Dubai

Rory McIlroy has been left to play a lone Irish hand with the trio of Shane Lowry, Tom McKibbin and Padraig Harrington all missing the cut in the rain-affected Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy hit the cup with his birdie putt at 18 but his eventual two-under 70 moved him to eight-under par and leaving the course then tied in fifth place.

“More of the same, really. I think I only hit two fairways today,” said McIlroy. “So once you — when you can’t hit fairways around here, and the rough is quite thick, it’s very hard to have any control of your ball and get it close into par 4s.

“So, just a little rusty. Yeah, I need to go do a little work”.

Another of those at eight-under is Patrick Reed who has recorded identical scores at McIlroy of 66 and 70.

Reed struggled with his putting all day, so much so that as he walked from the scorer’s hut and then across the practice putting green he walked past Scot Robert MacIntyre, Reed grabbed the Scot’s left-handed putter, lined-up a 15-foot putt and holed it.

Reed was smiling with MacIntyre in saying:  “There you go! I couldn’t buy a putt all day”.

The big question now is whether McIlroy and Reed will go out together on day three of this $US9m event?

Lowry returned to the host Emirates Club course having just birdied the fifth hole of his round and moved to five-under when play was halted close to 5.30pm local time Friday.

The Offaly golfer looked all set to make it four rounds in his opening two events of 2023 until the first grass course to open in the UAE jumped-up to bite him as he only just managed to clear the water at the short par-3 seventh hole Lowry was playing as his 16th.

It then took Lowry a further six shots to find the bottom of the cup, just managing to move his second, getting a ‘flyer’ with his third into the back right-hand rough and now nearly 20-yards from the pin before eventually holing an eight-footer for his triple-bogey ‘7’.

Lowry eventually signed for a score of 75 for a one-over tally that sent him tumbling outside the leading 80 or so expected to make the one-under cut mark.

Lowry’s next event is Thursday’s starting AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and his opening PGA Tour event of 2023.

In speaking to Irish Golfer Magazine late on Friday here in Dubai, Lowry had said that the Monday finish to the Hero Dubai Desert Classic did not suit him but now in missing the cut, it will allow him to arrive to the California shoreline in sufficient time to prepare for the start of the event.

Tour rookie Tom McKibbin came in from the course very disappointed for a second Saturday running, posting scores of 74 and 71 to be tied with Lowry at one-over.

The Galgorm Castle attached 20-year-old ended his opening round in taking a triple-bogey ‘7’ at his 17th hole late on Thursday and never seemed to recover despite birdieing the second and third holes for two days running.

McKibbin then bogeyed seven and eight ahead of a closing par, and just cleared the water guarding the 18th with his second shot.

Padraig Harrington will also sit out the closing two rounds despite a rousing return to the form we saw last week in Abu Dhabi as he played his closing 11 holes in seven-under en route to a round of 65.

However, after an opening 81 Harrington just left himself too much work to do, ending his Dubai campaign at two-over.

Unlike Lowry’s long-distance journey, it will be just an hour’s drive north of Dubai for both McKibbin and Harrington for next week’s RAK Championship on the great Al Hamra course in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.

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