Golf

Cameron Young leads the way at Dubai Desert Classic as Rory McIlroy falls back

McIlroy was 10 strokes off the lead at the halfway stage.

Cameron Young held a three-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
Cameron Young Cameron Young held a three-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic (Kamran Jebreili/AP) (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

American Cameron Young held a three-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic as defending champion Rory McIlroy remained well off the pace.

Young added a second round of 64 to his opening 67 at Emirates Golf Club to reach 13 under par, with England’s Andy Sullivan and Poland’s Adrian Meronk his nearest challengers on 10 under.

Seeking a record fourth win in the event, McIlroy recorded five birdies and three bogeys in a round of 70 which left him 10 strokes off the lead.

Young, who has yet to win on the PGA Tour or DP World Tour, carded nine birdies and a solitary bogey on the ninth, his final hole of the day, after finding the water left of the green with his approach.

“I putted fantastic,” the world number 25 said. “I made a couple of long ones yesterday and then made a few more today that had no right going in I feel like.

“I hit a bunch of good putts, but just one of those days where you kind of have a couple of 30-footers and you look up and they are going right in the middle, which doesn’t happen all that often to have a bunch of them in one round.

“I’m doing a really good job of staying out of my own way. Kind of realised it was going well early, but the back nine, at the same time, it feels like you should do that to some extent, especially in the morning with not much wind.”

Meronk, who won three times on the DP World Tour last year and was voted player of the year by his peers, added a flawless 66 to his opening 68, while Sullivan returned a second successive 67.

“The experience [of winning] gives you a little more confidence that you’ve done it before, so you can do it again,” Meronk said.

Adrian Meronk follows his ball on the 13th hole during the second round of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
Adrian Meronk Adrian Meronk follows his ball on the 13th hole during the second round of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic (Kamran Jebreili/AP) (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

“The key is just to stick to your plan for your game, trust your shots, full commitment. Don’t get too ahead of yourself.

“It’s easy to say, but I think you have to experience it first and then it gets easier, but it’s never easy. But at least I have some experience under my belt.”

McIlroy looked set to climb up the leaderboard after he birdied the second and seventh, but he bogeyed the eighth after a sliced drive plugged in the desert and also dropped a shot on the ninth following another wayward tee shot.

The world number two also followed a birdie on the 10th with a bogey on the next and took an angry swipe at the rough following a fluffed pitch on the 17th, but at least ended the day on a high with a birdie from 20 feet on the 18th.

Rory McIlroy plays his second shot on the 13th hole during the second round of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy plays his second shot on the 13th hole during the second round of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic (Kamran Jebreili/AP) (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura threatened to card just the second 59 in DP World Tour history when he covered his first 12 holes in 10 under par thanks to an eagle and eight birdies, but bogeyed his penultimate hole and had to settle for a 63.

Nevertheless, that was a 12-shot improvement on his opening round and lifted Kawamura into a tie for seventh on six under par.

Dubai Invitational winner Tommy Fleetwood celebrated his 33rd birthday with a 70 to finish five under.