Date: February 01, 2014
Author: Jack Davies, Omnisport

McIlroy hangs on to top spot in Dubai

Rory McIlroy bounced back from an early setback to hang on to his lead at the Dubai Desert Classic on Friday.

The Northern Irishman held a two-shot lead over Italian Edoardo Molinari at the end of day one, but got his second round off to a bad start with his first bogey of the week.

Three birdies on the subsequent eight holes saw him make the turn in 33, with an inconsistent back nine ensuring he finished with a two-under-par 70.

That saw him one stroke clear of Brooks Koepka, whose 65 moved him into contention ahead of the weekend, and McIlroy was pleased with how he coped in tricky conditions.

"Making a few birdies on the front nine and turning two under par was a good effort, especially as the wind started to get up," he said.

"I birdied 10, played 11 and 12 okay but then missed that little one (a par putt) on 13, had a chance on 15 and didn't convert and made bogey on 16, but it was nice to birdie the last and at least give myself a one shot lead going into tomorrow.

"I will just go back tonight and regroup and realise that I am still leading the tournament.

"I hit a couple of loose drives which I haven't done the last couple of weeks but I still feel like I'm playing well enough to go and win the tournament."

McIlroy's performance was some way short of his day-one showing when he came in nine under, and Koepka capitalised to put himself in the frame for victory.

The American produced seven birdies in a sensational round to reach 10 under for the competition.

His round of 65 was matched only by England's Danny Willett, who hit seven birdies in the last 10 holes to put himself in the top three.

Molinari saw his grip on second place disappear despite an impressive eagle on hole 10, with the Italian hitting three bogies on his way to a par round.

Brett Rumford is the leading Australian at five under, while Scott Hend is a further two shots back in a tie for 44th.

Ross Fisher, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ernie Els were among the biggest casualties, failing to make the cut at the end of day two, while Tiger Woods' poor display saw him through to the final two days with just one shot to spare.