Despite carding a calamitous quadruple-bogey seven on the par-3 8th, Rory McIlroy clawed his way back to the top of the leaderboard to maintain his two shot lead at the halfway stage of the Dubai Invitational.
McIlroy started the day two shots clear of the field at Dubai Creek after a blistering career-low opener of 62 and birdies at the third and fourth holes extended his advantage to a seemingly ominous four strokes. However, the four-time major winner continued his trend of throwing in disaster holes out of nothing and after finding the water hazard twice on the 8th, he two putted for a quadruple-bogey seven to drop him into a share of the lead.
After passing up a chance for an immediate bounce back on the 9th, the Holywood clubman birdied the par fives 10 and 13 before draining a 30-footer for a birdie two on the par-3 16th which lifted him back into the lead on ten-under-par as he signed for a round of 70.
“I think if I look at the other 17 holes that I played, I played very, very well again,” chuckled McIlroy who aims to start his year with a win for the first time.
“Hit some good iron shots. Played not too dissimilarly to the way I played yesterday. I may be held a couple more putts yesterday. But the condition were getting a little trickier. Wind was up. Greens were firm and a couple miscues on the 8th hole.
“I felt like I did well just to get my head back into it and play some solid golf on the way in, and everyone seemed to find it a little more difficult today than yesterday. So it’s nice to go into the weekend still with the lead.
“Yeah, 10 was big. I had a chance to bounce back on 9 that I missed but 10 was big. The two shots into 13 were big, too.
“And to make two relatively easy birdies, and then I give myself chances most of the back nine, which was nice, and I was able to convert a couple before that tough finishing stretch there on 17 and 18.”
McIlroy has finished outside the top 10 just three times in his first event of the year since 2008, racking up four runner-up finishes and five third places but no wins in 15 starts and he leads Yannik Paul and Jeff Winther by two shots while Tommy Fleetwood, Thorjorn Olesen, Thriston Lawrence, Jordan Smith and Zander Lombard are a shot further back on -7.
20-year-old Tom McKibbin edged his way into the top-20 with a bogey-free round of 69 to reach two-under-par.