Final-hole blip costs McIlroy lead in Dubai

Northern Irish star suffers double-bogey to slip to fourth place in season-ending tournament


AFP November 20, 2021

DUBAI:

Rory McIlroy suffered a disappointing double-bogey on the closing par-5 hole to fall from a one-shot lead to one behind the leaders at the halfway stage of the European's Tour's season-ending DP World Tour Championship on Friday.

The 32-year-old Northern Irishman, winner of the tournament in 2012 and 2015, was four-under-par through 17 holes and 11-under total. On the par-5 18th, where a stream bisects the fairway, McIlroy's tee shot rolled into the right fairway bunker.

From up against the bunker wall, he needed to lay up, but his third shot from 211 yards hit the bank and rolled back into the water hazard at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

As McIlroy slipped to joint fourth place at nine-under-par, it left three players tied for the lead at 10-under -- England's Sam Horsfield (66), Ireland's Shane Lowry (65) and American John Catlin (65).

And while that is the battle for the $3 million winning cheque, the Race to Dubai tilted firmly in favour of American Collin Morikawa, who birdied the 18th and moved to eight-under par overall.

His nearest challenger, compatriot Billy Horschel, shot a two-under 70, but was 10 behind the leaders in tied 43rd place.

Lowry, the 2019 Open champion at Royal Portrush, chipped in for an unlikely eagle on the par-5 14th hole in a bogey-free round.

"I feel like my game is in good shape and I feel like I know my way around this place and I know how to play here," said Lowry.

"For me personally, it's two more days left and then ends of a long year and a half. I'm looking forward to giving everything and leaving it on the course this weekend and hopefully, I'm there near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon."

Horsfield put together a masterclass of lag putting as he birdied five successive holes from the sixth onwards. Two late bogeys denied him sole possession of the lead.

"It was nice. I feel like I've been playing pretty well and I just haven't been scoring great. I made five birdies in a row, and it was really nice to see some putts drop there. I had a little wobble, 16 and 17, but to birdie the 18th was great," said the Englishman, winner of two titles on the European Tour during the UK swing last year.

"I've definitely given myself a lot of opportunities the last two days and I just want to continue to do the same thing."

Catlin, winner of the Austrian Open this year, was solid throughout his round and made five birdies on the back nine. A sudden nosebleed denied him a sixth birdie on the 17th hole, where he was putting from eight feet.

"I have had these in dry places. It's nothing serious, but you don't want to stand over a putt with your nose bleeding," said Catlin.

Sweden's Alexander Bjork shares fourth position with McIlroy after a 67. Morikawa was in a share of sixth place with Germany's former world No1 Martin Kaymer (68).

McIlroy, for whom it was the 37th sub-par round on the Earth course in 42 attempts, said of his misfortune on the 18th: "Hit a good drive down there yesterday. It's a comfortable tee shot for me. It was playing slightly back into the wind and I hit that tee shot really well. I did not expect it to go as far as it did and get up into the face of the bunker.

"Even that was fine. And then the third shot, I hit a really good shot. That part of the fairway was just sort of thatchy and it came up spinny into the wind. I hit a good golf shot and felt like I didn't deserve to be in the water. A 70 was the worst I could have shot."

McIlroy is paired with Morikawa for the third round.

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