McElroy in touch after round two at UAE Challenge

Mark McGowan

Dermot McElroy (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Dermot McElroy is just four shots back at the halfway mark in the UAE Challenge at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, where he’s joined by Conor Purcell and Gary Hurley for weekend action.

McElroy opened with a 69 but went one better on day two, covering his opening nine in one-under after trading two birdies with a bogey, but finished strongly, birdieing three of his last six holes including the ninth, his last, to move to -7 and tied fifth, four shots off the lead.

Purcell, who was among the later starters, looked poised to join or even surpass his fellow countryman after three birdies in four holes in the early stages of his back nine saw him climb to -6, but a costly double-bogey at the eighth was followed by a par-five on nine, and he reached the clubhouse at -4 overall and in a tie for 21st.

Hurley, playing in the group behind Purcell, got off to an ideal start with a birdie on 11, but a run of four bogeys over the next five holes saw him move to three-over-par, well outside the cutline. He’d need something special to turn things around, but he duly delivered, closing out his opening nine with birdies on 17 and 18, then reeling off three more on the front side to post -2, safely through to the weekend in a tie for 42nd.

It would be heartbreak for John Murphy, however, who had made four bogeys and two birdies by the time he reached the 18th, knowing that he had to birdie to have any chance of making the cut. To his credit, he did exactly that, but as the afternoon progressed, it became increasingly obvious that lady luck wasn’t going to shine on him as 63 players were in red figures leaving Murphy, on level-par, missing out by the minimum.

He’s joined on the sidelines by Mark Power, Jonathan Caldwell and Ronan Mullarney, with the former and latter both struggling to make any real impression in the early stages of their Challenge Tour careers.

Joshua Berry will take a two-stroke lead into the weekend after posting a four under par round of 68 on day two at .

The Englishman, who started the day in a share of the lead, fired seven birdies in his first 11 holes to move clear of the rest of the field, and despite dropping three strokes in his final three holes, ended the day on 11 under par, two shots clear of South African Wilco Nienaber and Dane Hamish Brown.

The 18-year-old, who turned professional just over six months ago after securing playing privileges through DP World Tour Qualifying School, was delighted with his efforts over the opening two days.

“I’m really happy,” he said. “If you’d told me at the start of the day that I was going to shoot four under on the back of yesterday, I’d have taken it.

“Tee to green I’ve been quite solid. Today, I holed a couple more putts in the first twelve holes, but I’ve hit it well all week. Tomorrow, I’ll just go and do the same things but try to finish the round off a little bit better than I did today.”

Berry, who was five shots clear at one point on the second day before dropping three shots on the back nine in blustery afternoon conditions, highlighted the difficulty of scoring on day two at Saadiyat Beach.

“I teed off early yesterday, so I didn’t get much wind”, he said. “This afternoon was different and you had holes downwind and into wind.

“It’s quite firm out there, so you can hit good drives into bunkers, and then if you get a bad lie it’s quite tough.”

Frenchman Alexander Levy recorded a second successive round of 68 to move into fourth place on eight under par, while Swiss Benjamin Rusch, Dane Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen and Northern Irishman Dermot McElroy share fifth place on seven under par.

Seven players are one shot further back in eighth place, including Spaniard Javier Sainz, Dutchman Kiet van der Weele and Finn Tapio Pulkkanen.

The third round gets under way at 7:30am local time, with Berry teeing off alongside Nienaber and Brown at 9:30am.


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