DP World Tour Championship: McIlroy eyes strong finish as Rahm makes his move

Northern Irishman has work to do with tournament finely poised at the Earth Course

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his second shot on the 3rd hole during the round two of the DP World Tour Championship. AP
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Rory McIlroy has had a good look around the Earth Course during the first half of his four-day victory lap.

Far more so than he has ever done before at a DP World Tour Championship. At 1-under par at the halfway stage, there are just 12 players worse off than the Northern Irishman.

All of which has done little to sour his mood, in truth. McIlroy has been as chipper as you might expect of someone who arrived here this week with a fifth order of merit title already safely banked.

He has been shooting the breeze with his Ryder Cup-winning pals. Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian cricket great, too. And the holidays are coming.

Even though he is demob happy, he would like to stage a run of some sort over the closing two days of the tour campaign.

He will start Saturday 10 shots back from leader Nicolai Hojgaard, and he knows it will take something special to make a mark on the leaderboard, having been “stuck in neutral all day” on Friday.

“I hit eight out of nine greens on the front nine and I played nicely but I didn't putt as well as I did yesterday,” McIlroy said after his level-par 72 in Round 2.

“There is a low one out there and obviously I'm going to need a low one to get myself back in the tournament.”

Jon Rahm, the defending champion, led the way in that regard. Having been uncharacteristically out of sorts on Thursday at a course he has more or less owned in recent years, he was back into the old routine second time around.

Making a rare start from the 10th after the programme was rescheduled because of the early morning storm in Dubai, Rahm fired a 66.

That included going out in just 31 shots on his opening nine holes, and an eagle at the last which was two feet away from being an albatross.

“I took advantage of the easier conditions today, and did what I needed to early on,” said Rahm, who is five shots behind Hojgaard on 6-under.

“Being 5-under through nine holes with that eagle on 18 is great and I just kind of kept it going. Too bad, from 10, 11, my 12th hole on, when things cooled off a little bit.”

Rahm finished on a low, taking three putts from just over 20ft, but he was sanguine about what had happened.

“Perspective is a big thing and I told [caddie Adam Hayes], if you look at the scorecard the way it's intended to be read, starting on 1, it was a great finish," he said. "I'm just going to remind myself of that.”

DP World Tour Championship Day 2 - in pictures

Updated: November 17, 2023, 6:46 PM