McIlroy retains desert lead

European Tour

Although failing to card another 63 as he did in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic, Rory McIlroy managed to retain his lead with a second round 70.

McIlroy enjoyed a one shot lead at 11-under-par over Brooks Koepa who returned a bogey-free 65 that equalled the lowest score of the day.

The only other player to card a 65 was England’s Danny Willett who took a share of third place on eight-under-par along with Ireland’s Damien McGrane and France’s Julien Quesne.

European number one Henrik Stenson is a further shot back with defending champion Stephen Gallacher in a seven-way-tie for sixth place.

McIlroy dropped his first shot of the tournament on his opening hole on Friday and was far less accurate with his driver than what was the case on the first day.

Asked whether he expected to pull away from the field on the second day, McIlroy said: “I thought so, yes.”

“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 told SkySports.

“I birdied 10, played 11 and 12 okay but then missed that little one (a par putt from inside two feet) 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 said that he is confident that he could maintain his lead through the remainder of the tournament, adding that he enjoys being in the position he is currently in.

“I have led from the front quite well in tournaments that I have won. I feel like I am still playing well, I know the course as well as anyone else and I expect to go out there and shoot two good scores over the weekend and hopefully lift the trophy.”

Looking at the rest of the field, McIlroy would have noticed that Sweden’s Stenson is within reach and that he could be one of his biggest challengers over the last two rounds.

Stenson made a marvelous recovery after being three-over after the first five holes of in this desert showdown.

“I think there is still a little way to go but today was the best I have putted for a long, long time,” said Stenson.

“I was threatening on every putt and kept the score together with no bogeys, which is always a good sign.”

Meanwhile world number one Tiger Woods nearly missed the cut after he made a 73 while playing alongside McIlroy.

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