Rory McIlroy suffered a frustrating second round at the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Estates’ Earth Course in Dubai, but Shane Lowry and Tom McKibbin both had good days and several other ‘big guns’ went low.
Already crowned the Race to Dubai champion, McIlroy was hoping to add a third Tour Championship victory to his CV, but after a level-par day two, he’s 10 back and in all likelihood, out of contention.
Shane Lowry’s five-under 67 was the round of the day from an Irish perspective, but a bogey on the par-5 closing hole will have left a bitter taste in the Offaly man’s mouth. The highlight of Lowry’s round came on the par-5 seventh where he showed off his legendary short game skills to chip in for eagle from short of the green. The eagle followed a birdie at six and was sandwiched by another at eight as he covered the three-hole stretch in four-under.
Three more birdies followed on the back side, before the costly error at the last which saw him post -5, but it was a marked improvement on day one in his first start since the Ryder Cup.
He’s joined on that number by Tom McKibbin, who is still in with an outside chance of claiming one of 10 PGA Tour cards on offer for the highest non-exempt Race to Dubai finishers. He’ll need a win, however, and despite a back-nine birdie blitz that saw him pick up a shot on 12 and then three on the spin from 14 through 16, he’s six shots shy of leader Nicolai Hojgaard and four short of the five-way tie for second.
Hojgaard, who held a share of the first round lead, bogeyed two of his opening four holes, but those were his last dropped shots of the day and he made six birdies in the following 13 holes before signing off in style with an eagle-three at the last.
The Dane now has daylight between he and the chasing pack, but Dubai resident and Middle-East specialist Tommy Fleetwood and seeming world number one in waiting Viktor Hovland are among those closest.
Nobody has made more birdies than Fleetwood who’s had 14 overall and seven today on his way to a six-under 66, a score matched by Ryder Cup teammate Hovland whose only dropped shot came courtesy of an uncharacteristic short putt miss on 13.
“It’s been huge,” Hovland said of his all-round improvement, “just talking about yesterday, that could have easily been an even par plus one round, just some of the spots I left myself in. But I hit it pretty nice. Missed it in some spots that I usually could have made a bogey or a double and that just completely kills momentum. So yeah, I’m just staying really patient and not making a mistake and it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, so I think yeah, it’s nice to play kind of stress-free golf.”
Alongside the duo are South African Thristan Lawrence, Sweden’s Jens Dantorp and Frenchman Antoine Rozner.
Jon Rahm’s chances of making it four wins in five starts at the Earth Course look considerably brighter after the Masters champion shot a six-under from a level-par starting point. A three-putt from 18 feet on the last took some of the shine off, but his presence adds weight to an already top-heavy leaderboard with McIlroy the most high-profile of the heavyweights who’s not particularly close after 36 holes.