McIlroy moves into Dubai contention

Rory McIlroy (9/2 – Outright Winner) felt he could have shot an even lower score after carding a bogey-free round of 66 to move to within four strokes of the lead following the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic on Friday.

The Northern Irishman is seeking a hat-trick of titles at Emirates Golf Club following his victories at the event in 2009 and 2015, and he certainly improved on his opening round of 71, registering four birdies and an eagle as he reached the halfway stage on seven-under-par and in a tie for fifth.

It was an impressive showing from the 32-year-old, who was certainly pleased with the way he was striking the ball, although he ultimately felt he should be heading into the weekend a little closer to the top of the leaderboard.

“It could have been way lower,” McIlroy said, as quoted by Sky Sports. “I certainly hit the ball good enough for it to be a few shots lower. I missed a few opportunities, but the way these new greens are, they get a bit chewed up a little bit on the afternoon and they start to wiggle a little bit if there’s not a lot of speed on them.

“I certainly hit the ball as good as I’ve done in a long time and it could have been a few better, but 66 this afternoon is a good score and sets me nicely up for the weekend.”

South Africa’s Justin Harding (11/2) is the man to catch over the weekend, as he followed up an opening round of 65 with a 68 on Saturday to move onto -11 for the tournament, two strokes clear of Englishman Tyrrell Hatton (10/3), who like McIlroy produced a round of 66.

Erik van Rooyen (9/1) and Fabrizio Zanotti (30/1) sit three shots off the pace in a share of third, while McIlroy is joined on -7 by overnight leader Joachim B Hansen (30/1), Adrian Meronk (33/1), Viktor Hovland (11/2) and Richard Bland (35/1) – the latter had held the outright lead before dropping three shots at his final two holes.

Defending champion Paul Casey (16/1), who is nursing a shoulder injury, is one of five Englishmen alongside Tommy Fleetwood (20/1), Lee Westwood (33/1), Sam Horsfield (33/1) and Marcus Armitage (80/1) still in contention on -6, while a round of 73 leaves Open champion Collin Morikawa (40/1) eight shots off the pace.

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