McIlroy sees 'more negatives than positives' despite remaining in contention at Dubai Desert Classic

By Sports Desk January 28, 2023

World number one Rory McIlroy expressed frustration with his performance at the Dubai Desert Classic, where Thomas Pieters, Michael Thorbjornsen and Richard Bland shared the halfway lead.

The tournament will spill into Monday after adverse weather on the first two days, with Belgian Pieters, Englishman Bland and American amateur Thorbjornsen sharing the lead on 10 under heading into the final two rounds.

McIlroy is tied for seventh place – along with Patrick Reed, after their spat earlier in the week – on eight under.

The Northern Irishman was unhappy with his second round, however, after carding a 70 following his first-round 66.

McIlroy birdied the third and made an eagle putt from 33 feet on the 13th, yet he bogeyed the 10th and could not beat par on any other hole.

"More of the same really," said McIlroy when asked for his thoughts on Saturday's round.

"I think I only hit two fairways. Once you can't hit fairways and the rough is quite thick, it's hard to get any control on your ball, get close to par fours. A little rusty, I need to do a bit of work on it.

"I've chipped and putted it well and got myself around the course okay, been able to post a couple of decent scores and at least have a chance going into the last few days. But definitely more negatives than positives – I need to go and figure it out on the range."

McIlroy was, however, pleased the tournament organisers extended the event through to Monday.

He said: "I'm glad that they've gone to Monday and all the field have the opportunity to play 72 holes. It's such a big event, I think the discrepancy between these big events and the lesser ones, that fourth day could mean a lot to someone for changing the course of their year or their career.

"We can still get to our destinations on Monday night. Thankfully for me, there's two more rounds."

Reed also went round in 70 on Saturday, while Spain's Adri Arnaus, Sweden's Marcus Kinhult and Connor Syme of Scotland stood tied for fourth on nine under par.

Pieters, meanwhile, recovered from a sloppy front nine by having seven birdies after the turn.

American Thorbjornsen carded an eagle and seven birdies as he went round in 64, while Englishman Dan Bradbury registered the best score of the round, a 63, to join McIlroy and Reed on eight under, with Ian Poulter also in the eight-man group on that score.

"It feels good," Thorbjornsen said. "I didn't have the best round yesterday and the day before, felt like I missed a lot of putts out there. I thought I had a pretty good game plan but just stuck to it today. I actually made some putts.

"I enjoy playing professional golf a lot and I'm still an amateur, but just the golf courses that we play, the crowd out there, it's what I'm dreaming of ever since I was five or six years old. It just feels good to be out there."

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