by Fatiha Betscher, Dubai
What the golf world would have loved so much to witness has somewhat disappointingly not transpired and by just 10 minutes.
The ‘tee gate’ duo of Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy ended their second rounds of the rain-interrupted Hero Dubai Desert Classic tied at eight-under but with any thoughts of a head-to-head third round encounter on day three here in Dubai out the window with the DP World Tour announcing the draw as:
|11:31 am||BRUN, Julien||WALLACE, Matt||REED, Patrick|
|11:42am||McILROY, Rory||WIESBERGER, Bernd||BRADBURY, Dan|
Had it not been for McIlroy hitting the cup with his birdie attempt on the final green the golf world would not have been kept in wait for news of the draw in the Rolex Series $US9m event.
McIlroy’s eventual 36th hole closing par, officially judged to be 11 inches, handed him a second round 70 for an eight-under tally on the Emirates Club course.
The World No. 1 headed to the scorer’s hut at the back of the 18th tee, and located underneath the new Hero logo adorned corporate enclosure American Patrick Reed was heading down the ninth, and his closing hole.
Reed, who couldn’t buy a putt in a round of three birdies and a bogey, also signed for a 70, and after each posting opening scores of 66 they were tied on eight-under.
McIlroy, a double Dubai winner, had ended his opening round early on Friday – birdie, eagle and birdie – but it was mostly low key with the only sky rocket in a second loop being in holing a monster 34-footer for an eagle ‘3’ on 13.
He had earlier birdied the third for a second day and bogeyed the 10th.
“I’ve scrambled well this week. I really needed to scramble well on Thursday, and then again today in some spots”, said McIlroy.
“It’s nice when you’re not feeling on your game you have a short game to sort of bail you out, and I think that’s the reason why I’m still not too far away from the lead.
“As for today’s round? More of the same, really. I think I only hit two fairways today”, he said.
“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.
“Overall, just a little rusty. Yeah, need to go do a little work.
“I chipped and putted it well, and I sort of, you know, got myself around the golf course okay. Being able to post a couple of decent scores and at least have a chance going into the last two days. But definitely more negatives than positives and need to go and figure it out on the range”.
And before heading to the Player’s Lounge for a late-afternoon bite, McIlroy again supported the Tour’s decision to go ahead with a Monday finish.
“I’m glad that they went to a Monday. It’s good that all the field get an opportunity to play 72 holes,” he said.
“I think it’s a good thing. It’s such a big event, I think now the discrepancy between these big events on tour and then the lesser ones, that fourth day could mean a lot to someone in terms of changing the course of their year or the course of their career.
“Obviously happy we are playing 72, and it’s not as if people have to go that far. Most of the guys are going to Ras Al-Khaimah, a few guys are going to Saudi, so we’re not having to go anywhere else.
“Everyone can sort of still get to their destinations on Monday night. Thankfully for me, there’s two more rounds”.
Three players lead the way – England’s Richard Bland (67), Belgium’s Thomas Pieters (67) and 21-year-old American amateur Michael Thorbjornsen (64).
Thorbjornsen was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He qualified for the 2019 U.S. Open by winning the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club. At the U.S. Open, he made the cut and ultimately finished in 79th place.
Thorbjornsen finished 4th in the 2022 Travelers Championship at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut and because Thorbjornsen was competing as an amateur, Chesson Hadley, who finished 5th, took home the $406,700 in prize money that would have otherwise gone to him.
“It feels good. I didn’t have the best round yesterday and I felt like I missed a lot of putts out there”, he said. I thought I had a pretty good game plan but just stuck to it today. I actually made some putts.
“I enjoy playing professional golf a lot and I’m still an amateur but just the golf courses that we play, the crowd out there, it’s what I’ve dreamed of ever since I was five or six years old. It just feels good to be out there”.