McIlroy Timely Birdies The Last In Toughest Day In 17-Year Abu Dhabi HSBC C’ship

Rory McIlroy could be mistaken he was competing in Scotland in October rather than what should be the New Year heat in the UAE capital.

McIlroy was not alone in battling near 60 km off-shore winds and the late afternoon chill, and on one of the toughest weather-related days in the 17-year history of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in the UAE capital

The World No. 8 had shown a little New Year rust in posting a Thursday starting score of a level par 72 but nothing prepared all those in the field for what they faced on day two in the Euro 7m Rolex Series event.

It was much the case that ‘par was your friend’ on the exposed Kyle Phillips designed course buffeted by winds coming in off the Arabian Sea, and turning the waterway running alongside the course into an ideal sail-boarding venue.

McIlroy stuck with the par script posting five outward pars before a first dropped shot at the sixth but brilliantly moved to one-under with an eagle ‘3’ and the next, the par-5 seventh.

He then bogeyed the ninth for a second day running but four bogeys in five holes from the 14th were starting to sound the missed cut bell for McIlroy before coming the last, the ‘moved forward’ par-5 18th where he produced great drive and then a 3-wood second shot that came up short but with the four-time major winner superbly chipping to around four feet and holing the birdie putt just minutes before poor light halted play.

His three-over-par tally has McIlroy just inside the projected cut-off mark but that could all change as the slowness of the day sees 39-players in the now 131-player field yet to complete their second rounds.

“I knew I needed to birdie the last to make the cut and nice to do that”, he said.

“It was tough out there and I’ll go to the Middle East, and it’s perfect but today was different. I can’t remember when it’s been like this here. I played in a couple of sandstorms in Dubai and a couple of mornings it’s been cold in Abu Dhabi, but nothing like this.

“The course is obviously generous off the tee with some big greens but it’s the lag putting and leaving yourself a lot of six-footers for par, and also having to play either double the break or one hole, wind affects it and next hole, it doesn’t.

“You can have a putt that can charge by a can charge by a cup a few feet or more.

“I feel like I’m hitting it well. Hit it well on the range this morning. It’s all in there. But hopefully, I get to play the weekend and we’ll have a couple of calm days.

“I’d just like another two competitive days of play and see where I’m at”.

Scot Scott Jamieson continued to lead the way but let slip a four-shot lead early in his round to end the day with a 74 and now back leading by a shot at seven-under.

Viktor Hovland (72) and Ian Poulter (74) are also in the clubhouse tied in second place on six-under-par and with Shane Lowry the best of the four Irish signing for a 72 to be presently sharing fifth place on five-under.

Royal Portrush winning Shane Lowry is the best of the Irish, adding a solid 72 to his opening 67 and remaining at five-under and just two from the front but admitting he was near at his best in the conditions as we witnessed in winning the 2019 Open.

“I played okay and felt like I didn’t really have my A Game in the wind today that I normally would,” said Lowry.

“I hit some loose shots that generally would be better but it was just so tough out there, so tough, every part of it. Putting was probably the hardest thing, but yeah, I’m absolutely thrilled with 72, to be honest. The first tournament of the year, I was happy with 5-under yesterday and I’m happy with level par today and hopefully, it doesn’t get up too much and the boys stay out there this morning and I’ll be there going into the weekend”..


Padraig Harrington was clearly delighted to hole a 20-footer putt for par on 18 in posting a 71 to be tied 30th at level par with McIlroy currently tied in 60th place.

“You have got to be smart as putting is the hardest and you have to leave yourself uphill putts”, said Harrington.  “Also, often in these conditions hitting down the middle of the fairway might not be the thing, as you could be better off slinging it on the wind and putting in the rough and 30 to 40-yards closer.


“It’s been smart all about the course while the biggest difficulty is definitely on the greens.


At the last, he left his first putt 20 feet short and gave a big smile while holing the next.  Also, his double on 12 he said was a first-ever double hit with a chip shot.


And Jonathan Caldwell disappointingly sits out the weekend with scores of 77 and 78.

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