Wednesday 13 December 2017

Rory's set for scrap!

RORY McIlroy will have to withstand the challenge of Thomas Bjorn and the world's number two- and three-ranked golfers as they share a halfway lead at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Ulster's US Open champion justified his position as favourite by adding a 65 to his first round 66 to reach 13-under par.

But 40-year-old Bjorn has matched him shot-for-shot so far and now finds himself in a battle with McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, who had the first hole-in-one of his life on the 186-yard seventh -- his 16th -- as he reached 11 under with a 67, and Lee Westwood, whose 65 for 10 under included birdies on the last three holes.

"They are people capable of amazing things, but I won in Switzerland with those three on the leaderboard and that's not long ago," Bjorn said.

The Dane's victory in the European Masters last September came with a dazzling closing round of 62, his joint lowest of a European Tour career that goes back 16 years.

He beat Kaymer (in second) by four, McIlroy (third) by five and Westwood (six) by six.

"It's very easy to get impressed by the way they play the game, but you've got to go out and focus on your own game," Bjorn added.

Bjorn also has the memory of beating Tiger Woods head-to-head on the Emirates Course in 2001 with a 22-under-par total that still stands as the tournament record.

McIlroy, though, is back at the scene of his first professional victory three years ago and in his last eight events -- a run that started in Switzerland -- he has only once finished outside the top four.

The 22-year-old overtook first-round leader Rafael Cabrera-Bello by covering the back nine in four-under 33, chipping in at the 359-yard 17th.


For the second day running, he then missed an eagle chance of under 10 feet on the 18th but he then picked up more strokes on the third, sixth and eighth. "I feel like I played a lot better," he said. "I started off solidly and just kept picking up birdies. I'm a lot more confident off the tee and am reading the greens better. It puts me in a great position and I'm excited for the weekend."

Cabrera-Bello's 69 left him in third one off the pace, while Kaymer shares fourth with Scotland's Scott Jamieson and France's Gregory Bourdy.

"Now I'm part of the hole-in-one family," Kaymer said after an eight-iron shot won a watch not for himself, but for his physio, because of a bet they have every week.

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