Closing eagle helps Rory McIlroy soar up star-studded leaderboard

Bogey-free 65 leaves McIlroy three shot off leader Thomas Pieters in Abu Dhabi

Rory McIlroy  plays his second shot on the 18th hole during round two of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy plays his second shot on the 18th hole during round two of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

 

Rory McIlroy saved the best until last to surge into contention for his first win since September 2016 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy carded four birdies and an eagle from 25 feet on the 18th in a second round of 66 to reach nine under par, three shots behind Ryder Cup partner Thomas Pieters.

Leader Pieters had earlier holed out from a bunker on the ninth – his final hole – for one of his seven birdies in a bogey-free 65, with Spain’s Jorge Campillo his nearest challenger after going one better with a 64.

Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood sat two shots off the pace alongside Ross Fisher and Alexander Levy after celebrating his 27th birthday with a 68, while playing partner and world number one Dustin Johnson featured two strokes further back after a brilliant 64.

Paul Dunne carded a two-under 70 to move to six under and a share of 21st position, but Graeme McDowell missed the cut after a two-over 74 left him back on level par.

Playing his first event since calling an early end to his injury-plagued and winless season in October last year, McIlroy has yet to drop a single shot at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he has four second-place finishes, two thirds and a fifth in his last eight starts.

Rory McIlroy reacts to his eagle on the 18th green during round two of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy reacts to his eagle on the 18th green during round two of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

“I felt like I gave myself tons of chances on the back nine and it was sort of difficult to convert them,” McIlroy said.

“But I stayed patient and feel like I got what I deserved on the last for staying so patient and it was nice to finish with a three, leapfrog a few guys and get myself into contention for the weekend.

“It’s massive. Five shots to make up over the weekend is quite a lot, especially with a bunched leaderboard, so to cut that deficit to three, I feel so much closer to the lead.

“I hit the ball very well. I drove it well. I hit most of my iron shots very well. I gave myself plenty of chances, and that’s what I’m going to have to do over the next couple of days, as well, if I want to try and win this tournament.”

Pieters, who won a record four points and all three of his matches alongside McIlroy on his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine, told Sky Sports: “We have a decent game plan. I’ve done well here in the past [fourth in 2015 and second in 2016] and it suits me. We hit driver wherever we can and the rest of it is good ball-striking and going at a couple flags with wedges when you have them.”

Belgium’s Thomas Pieters holes out from the bunker on the ninth hole during round two of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Belgium’s Thomas Pieters holes out from the bunker on the ninth hole during round two of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Two-time winner Paul Casey, Bernd Wiesberger and Sam Brazel finished the day alongside McIlroy on nine under par, while Justin Rose – who has recorded 10 straight top-10 finishes – birdied the last to make the cut on the mark of two under.

“I know this course very well,” Casey said. “It seems like I’ve got good memories of every hole so it’s about drawing from those past experiences.

“I suppose ultimately it means nothing in the grand scheme of things because you can’t control what other guys do, but the biggest motivation is that [Martin] Kaymer has won here three times and I’ve got two. I see him in Arizona all the time and he doesn’t let me forget it!”

LEADERBOARD
(Britain and Ireland unless stated, par 72)

132 Thomas Pieters(Bel) 67 65

133 Jorge Campillo (Esp) 69 64

134 Alexander Levy (Fra) 69 65, Ross Fisher 67 67, Tommy Fleetwood 66 68

135 Andy Sullivan 70 65, Rory McIlroy 69 66, Paul Casey 70 65, Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 67 68, Sam Brazel (Aus) 67 68

136 Dustin Johnson (USA) 72 64, Andrew Johnston 68 68, Fabrizio Zanotti (Par) 67 69, Ryan Fox (Nzl) 70 66, Branden Grace (Rsa) 72 64, Chris Paisley 69 67, Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 69 67

137 Jason Scrivener (Aus) 69 68, Joost Luiten (Ned) 69 68, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 69 68

138 Richie Ramsay 68 70, Paul Dunne 68 70, Kristoffer Broberg (Swe) 69 69, Jeunghun Wang (Kor) 71 67, Ashun Wu (Chn) 71 67, Thomas Detry (Bel) 70 68, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 70 68, Hideto Tanihara (Jpn) 66 72, Matthew Fitzpatrick 68 70

139 Matt Wallace 71 68, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 69 70, Brandon Stone (Rsa) 69 70, Tyrrell Hatton 69 70, Adrian Otaegui (Esp) 70 69, Carlos Pigem (Esp) 68 71, Scott Vincent (Zim) 69 70

140 Scott Hend (Aus) 71 69, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 70 70, Seung-su Han (Kor) 73 67, Stephen Gallacher 68 72, Darren Fichardt (Rsa) 73 67, Benjamin Hebert (Fra) 72 68, Richard Sterne (Rsa) 68 72

141 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) 72 69, Lasse Jensen (Den) 70 71, Byeong-Hun An (Kor) 71 70, Matteo Manassero (Ita) 70 71, Mikko Korhonen (Fin) 73 68, Gary Stal (Fra) 72 69, Lee Slattery 69 72, Shubhankar Sharma (Ind) 71 70, Robert Karlsson (Swe) 71 70, Dean Burmester (Rsa) 69 72, Gregory Bourdy (Fra) 71 70, Gregory Havret (Fra) 70 71, Nino Bertasio (Ita) 70 71

142 Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 72 70, Ricardo Gouveia (Por) 72 70, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 71 71, Mikko Ilonen (Fin) 68 74, Haydn Porteous (Rsa) 72 70, Joakim Lagergren (Swe) 69 73, Matt Kuchar (USA) 72 70, Jacques Kruyswijk (Rsa) 75 67, Alvaro Quiros (Esp) 70 72, Justin Rose 71 71, Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 69 73, Thomas Bjorn (Den) 73 69, Alejandro Canizares (Esp) 71 71, Jordan Smith 72 70, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 72 70

MISSED CUT

143 Thomas Aiken (Rsa) 70 73, Maximilian Kieffer (Ger) 73 70, Alexander Bjork (Swe) 69 74, Renato Paratore (Ita) 76 67, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 73 70, Oliver Fisher 68 75, Peter Hanson (Swe) 70 73, Anthony Wall 72 71, Lee Westwood 74 69, Paul Waring 70 73, Daniel Brooks 72 71, George Coetzee (Rsa) 72 71, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra) 72 71, David Drysdale 72 71, Andres Romero (Arg) 72 71, Ian Poulter 75 68, Jamie Donaldson 73 70

144 Graeme McDowell 70 74, Daniel Im (USA) 70 74, David Horsey 72 72, Ashley Chesters 70 74, Jason Norris (Aus) 73 71, David Lipsky (USA) 71 73, Wade Ormsby (Aus) 73 71, Eddie Pepperell 72 72, Edoardo Molinari (Ita) 74 70

145 Richard Bland 74 71, Haotong Li (Chn) 73 72, Robert Rock 74 71, Trevor Immelman (Rsa) 69 76, Callum Shinkwin 73 72, Austin Connelly (Can) 72 73, Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) 71 74

146 Matthieu Pavon (Fra) 77 69, Matthew Southgate 74 72, Graeme Storm 74 72, Scott Jamieson 75 71, Marc Warren 73 73, Romain Wattel (Fra) 69 77, Paul Lawrie 74 72, Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 74 72, Soomin Lee (Kor) 74 72

147 Zander Lombard (Rsa) 73 74, Nacho Elvira (Esp) 74 73, James Morrison 75 72

148 Marcel Siem (Ger) 75 73, Ernie Els (Rsa) 76 72, Andrew Dodt (Aus) 76 72

149 Tom Buchanan 74 75

150 Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha) 77 73, Chris Wood 74 76, Chris Hanson 71 79

151 Jose-Maria Olazabal (Esp) 78 73

155 Dan Kirkwood (am) 74 81

166 Ahmed Al Musharrekh (UAE) 86 80

THIRD ROUND TEE-TIMES

(Irish time)

4.0am Kjeldsen, Ilonen

4.10 Canizares, Olesen , Smith

4.20 Rose, Cabrera-Bello, Kuchar

4.30 Gouveia, Lorenzo-Vera, Kruyswijk

4.40 Quiros, Lagergren, Bjorn

4.50 Havret, Manassero, Porteous

5.05am Bertasio, Jensen, Bjerregaard

5.15 Slattery, Korhonen, Stal

5.25 Bourdy, Karlsson, Sharma

5.35 Burmester, An, Gallacher

5.45 Aphibarnrat, Hend, Fichardt

5.55 Sterne, Hebert, Han

6.10am Wallace, Colsaerts, Stone

6.20 Vincent, Pigem, Otaegui

6.30 Detry, Hatton, Ramsay

6.40 Tanihara, Wu, Stenson

6.50 Fitzpatrick, Dunne, Broberg

7.0am Scrivener, Wang, Luiten

7.15 Zanotti, Kaymer, Johnson

7.25 Frittelli, Paisley, Johnston

7.35 Fox, Sullivan, Grace

7.45 Brazel, Wiesberger, McIlroy

7.55 Levy, Fleetwood, Casey

8.05am Campillo, Pieters , Fisher

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