Purcell leads Irish challenge as Howie breaks course record in Abu Dhabi

Ronan MacNamara

Conor Purcell (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Craig Howie will take a two shot lead into the weekend of the UAE Challenge at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club after posting a course record six under par second round of 66.

The Scot registered two birdies on the front nine before adding four more coming home, including back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th, and did so without carding a bogey to take the outright lead on nine under par.

Overnight leader Ivan Cantero Gutierrez shares second place with Spanish compatriot Manuel Elvira, who eagled his final hole to join him on seven under par.


Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell is seven shots off the lead after battling to a two-over 74 and he lies on two-under.

Purcell had an identical finish to Thursday as he double-bogeyed the sixteenth again and responded with two closing birdies.

Safely through to the weekend are Derry’s Ruaidhri McGee who made a big move with a three-under 69 and Paul Dunne who is level-par after successive 72s.

McGee opened with a 74 but started round two in emphatic fashion with four birdies in eight holes before he triple bogeyed the 18th which was his ninth hole.

The 32-year-old birdied two of his last three holes to make the cut on one-under-par.

Niall Kearney, Cormac Sharvin, Dermot McElroy and Stuart Grehan all missed the cut by the minimum on one-over-par.

28-year-old Howie, who won on the Challenge Tour in 2021 at the Range Servant Challenge by Hinton Golf, is feeling confident ahead of the weekend.

“First and foremost, I’m really pleased,” he said. “To go bogey free was great and to shoot six under is better than I could’ve asked for.

“I’ve got good control of the golf ball. I’m driving it really well and I’m shaping my iron shots really well using the wind. I just feel comfortable.

“You have to flat out hit it well around here. You can find yourself in some terrible spots around the greens if you don’t hit good approach shots. It’s a golf course that will reward good iron play, and thankfully right now, I’m hitting my irons really well.”

Howie currently sits in 25th position on the Road to Mallorca Rankings and finished in tied sixth at the Duncan Taylor Black Bull Challenge in March. He’s hoping that the wind continues to blow over the weekend where he can use his experiences of playing in such conditions to his advantage.

“I’ve played a lot of golf in the wind, so I feel really comfortable,” he said. “It’s maybe 30 degrees too warm for me, but things feel good.

“Hopefully it blows quite windy over the weekend because I’m feeling pretty good about it. There’s a long 36 holes ahead so anything can happen, but I feel great.”

Norwegian Jeppe Kristian Anderson and Spaniard Joel Moscatel Nachshon share fourth place on six under par, while South African Jaco Prinsloo, Australia’s Maverick Antcliff and Scotland’s Liam Johnston – who matched the course record with a six under par round of 66 – occupy sixth.

Seven players share ninth on four under par, including Italian Matteo Manassero, who remains the youngest winner in DP World Tour history, and Road to Mallorca Number One Ugo Coussaud.

The third round of the UAE Challenge gets underway at 7:00am local time, with Howie teeing it up in the final group at 9:00am alongside Elvira and Cantero Gutierrez.

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