Frustrations for McIlroy as Cameron Young pulls clear in Dubai

Mark McGowan
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Rory McIlroy (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Rory McIlroy rolled in a 22-footer on the final hole to better day one’s effort by a single stroke, but, barring going really low over the weekend, it looks as though a fourth Dubai Desert Classic victory is beyond his reach.

The world number two bogeyed three holes in succession in the closing stages on day one to fall from within a shot of the lead, and by the time he took to the first tee on day two, he found himself trailing by 12 as American Middle East debutant Cameron Smith added a second-round eight-under 64 to his -5 on day one to enjoy a healthy lead at -13.

Much like he had towards the end of the opening round, McIlroy looked a little out of sorts, finding just two of 14 fairways, and 10 of 18 greens. Despite it all, he birdied two of the opening seven, but a wide-right off the eighth tee found a horrendous lie in the waste area and he couldn’t even reach the fairway having elected to knock out sideways. An incredible approach from there left him an outside chance of par, but the putt slid past dropping him back to -1 for the day.

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Another miss to the right off the ninth lead to another bogey, and he turned as he’d started at -1 for the tournament. A neat up-and-down lead to a birdie at the par-5 10th, but he couldn’t repeat the feat at the par-3 11th, but with two par-5s remaining and the best scoring stretch of the course remaining, getting to -5 or better was still not out of the question.

Unfortunately, he’d only pick up strokes on the two par-5s, missing short birdie putts on 12 and 16, and frustratingly watching excellent mid-range efforts slide by on 14 and 15. The birdie at the last, coming after being forced to layup after missing left with a fairway wood off the tee, added a little gloss to the round, and lifted him into a tie for 24th going into moving day.

One shot further back, Tom McKibbin matched his clubmate’s round of 70, making three birdies and an eagle but mixing in three bogeys as well.

On day one, he’d failed to birdie any of the four par-5s, and made another par on the third – the first of the par 5s – on day two, making the turn at level-par after trading a birdie at five with a bogey at eight.

His first par-5 birdie of the week arrived at the 10th, but gave the shot away on the 11th, before the highlight of the day came on 13. A 341-yard drive cut the corner and left him 207 yards to the flag, and after a solid iron to the heart of the green, he rolled in the 26-footer for eagle, leaving the cutline, which was hovering at level-par, in the rearview mirror.

Despite dropping a shot on 15, another eagle putt on the last came to rest on the lip and he tapped in for a birdie-four to move back to -2, safely through in a tie for 37th.

Sadly, Padraig Harrington won’t be joining them after the Dubliner carded six bogeys and a double-bogey on day two to miss the cut. Five bogeys in the first seven holes all but ended his chances, but he’ll remain in the Middle East and hope to sharpen up over the weekend before next week’s Ras Al Khaimah Championship.

But Young, who has Irish professional and former Wake Forest teammate Paul McBride on the bag this week, is the man in pole position.

The World Number 25 has made himself right at home, carding 14 birdies and an eagle over the first two rounds to get to 13-under. That includes a remarkable run of scoring after being level par after his first 12 holes of the week, picking up 14 shots in his next 22 to fly up the leaderboard.

Pole Adrian Meronk and England’s Andy Sullivan were the nearest challengers after rounds of 66 and 67 respectively, with Danish twins Nicolai and Rasmus Højgaard and Scotland’s Richie Ramsay at seven-under.

Young has two runner-up finishes on the DP World Tour at the 2022 Open Championship and 2023 WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play to go with four more on the PGA TOUR but has yet to add to his two Korn Ferry Tour victories from 2021.

A Rolex Series triumph would be a spectacular way to return to the winner’s circle and the 26-year-old believes the putter was key to getting him in pole position.

Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald made the sixth hole-in-one of the season and second of his DP World career when he holed an eight iron from 183 yards on the fourth.

“I putted fantastic,” said Young. “I made a couple long ones yesterday and then made a few more today that those had no right going in I feel like. I hit a bunch of good putts but just one of those days where you kind of have a couple 30-footers and you look up and they are going right in the middle, which doesn’t happen all that often to have a bunch of them in one round. But really nicely and putted great.

“I’m doing a really good job of doing just what you said, staying out of my own way. Kind of realised it was going well early but the back nine, at the same time, it feels like you should do that to some extent, especially in the morning with not much wind.”

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One response to “Frustrations for McIlroy as Cameron Young pulls clear in Dubai”

  1. John Lavelle avatar
    John Lavelle

    I enjoy the Irish Golfer and the news it provides that keeps me in touch with both Irish and worldwide golfing news. However, there is a common error appearing, especially recently. It is the incorrect spelling of “led”, the past tense of “to lead”, using “lead”. Editor, please be more observant!

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