Rolex Series

Rory McIlroy produces big finish to share clubhouse lead in Dubai

Rory McIlroy finished his first round with a flourish on Friday morning to share the early clubhouse lead at the weather-affected 2023 Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy had three holes to complete when he returned to the course at 10.00 on Friday after more wet weather caused a further two-hour delay.

But the two-time winner of this event did not let the disruption affect him, as he went birdie-eagle-birdie from the seventh to sign for a 66 and reach six under par.

He sits alongside Patrick Reed at the top of the leaderboard after the American closed his round with an eagle on the 18th. 

With the second wave only starting their first rounds on Friday, there is still plenty of time for the co-leaders to be caught at the summit.

Last week's winner Victor Perez, Thomas Pieters and Adri Arnaus were McIlroy and Reed's nearest challengers on five under after the first wave concluded their rounds.

Northern Irishman McIlroy made four birdies and two bogeys in his first 15 holes on Thursday before leaving himself a four-foot birdie chance after playing his tee-shot at the seventh moments before the hooter sounded.

He began day two by tapping in that putt before sending his tee-shot at the eighth into the desert.

The World Number One produced a shot-of-the-day contender from the sand, holing his wedge shot for an extraordinary eagle.

McIlroy then closed his round with a birdie from four feet to head into the clubhouse on six under.

Reed joined him on that mark after he also produced late fireworks, rolling in his 15-foot eagle putt at the last.

Playing in his first event of the year, McIlroy admitted his fabulous finish was a "bonus" after he had struggled on Thursday.

He said: "I struggled out there most of yesterday. I thought I did well to be under par by the end of the day. I fought back after some very sloppy, rusty golf over the first sort of 14 holes.

"And then today I came out and I don't really know if anything clicked, because I don't think I hit enough shots to know, but it was definitely needed.

"I would have been happy with anything around 70 the way I played, and then to come in and shoot 66 is quite the bonus."

Speaking about his eagle on the eighth, McIlroy added: "I wouldn't say I'm the best fairway bunker player in the world. The desert is a little nicer, it's a little more packed down, so you get some better lies.

"All I was thinking about was catching it clean. My tendency out of those lies is to hit it a little bit heavy. 

"As soon as I struck it, I knew it came out really nicely and it was right down the pin. 

"Anything inside of 20 feet I would have been happy with, so that was certainly a bonus."

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