Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic Halfway Hut: Rory McIlroy finds spark to move into top five

News, stats, quotes and social after 36 holes at the Emirates Golf Club where Justin Harding holds a two-shot lead after two rounds.

After an unusually slow start in one of his favourite events, Rory McIlroy has positioned himself for a weekend challenge at the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic.

The Northern Irishman has won this tournament twice and been the first-round leader no less than four times.

But in Thursday's opener at Emirates Golf Club, a poor finish led to McIlroy recording a modest 1-under-par 71, his highest day one score since 2006.

With Justin Harding setting the clubhouse total of 11-under on Friday morning after rounds of 65 and 68, McIlroy faced a 10-shot deficit when he teed off in the afternoon.

By the close of play, he'd cut that cap to just four after a hugely impressive 6-under 66, a score that in no way flattered him.

McIlroy is now tied fifth and in place to put his foot to the accelerator over the weekend.

Harding leads by two from Tyrrell Hatton, who matched McIlroy's 66, while Fabrizio Zanotti and Erik Van Rooyen are tied third on 8-under, three back.

Viktor Hovland added a 69 to his first-round 68 to join Rory on 7-under while other big names lurk too.

Scroll down to the 6-unders and they include Tommy Fleetwood, defending champion Paul Casey and fellow Englishman Lee Westwood.

But not all the big names had it their own way on day two.

Sergio Garcia dropped to 3-under after a 74 while Open champion Collin Morikawa is also eight back after a 1-over 73.

Stats

Justin Harding ranks 4th for Strokes Gained: Putting and 10th for SG: Approach after two rounds.

Harding has held just one previous 36-hole lead on the European Tour. He went on to convert it into a win at the 2019 Qatar Masters. Add in Asian Tour and Sunshine Tour events and he's won four times out of the last five when leading at halfway.

Rory McIlroy is 2nd in SG: Tee To Green but 79th (-0.42) for SG: Putting

Colin Morikawa is only 61st for SG: Approach.

Quotes

Justin Harding (68, 133)

"Made some putts, to be fair. I've driven the ball well. I didn't drive it that great yesterday. Hit it in the sand rather than the rough and makes it a bit easier. I rolled the ball pretty good. For the most part, kept bogeys off the card.

"Hit the fairway on the longer, tougher par 4s. Ultimately just grinding. It was a grind of a day today to be fair. Just bonus there on 6 (holed approach).

"Game seems to be close. Just a matter if I can control the putter and make some putts, we are always going to be there and thereabouts, which is nice."

Tyrrell Hatton (66, 135)

"Obviously happy with that. Didn't get off to a great start with a bogey on the first hole, battled back from there and played a lot of good golf today and hope that can continue into the weekend.

"I gave myself plenty of opportunities most of the day and putted lovely. Hold a couple of good par putts when I needed to, and yeah, momentum was on my side.

"I've had good results in the past and the course has been pretty good to me over the years and played pretty well last week. Game feels like it's in a pretty good spot, so see how we go."

Tyrrell Hatton is solo second

Erik Van Rooyen (67, 136)

"Very pleased, very clean. Besides that one bunker shot on 8, very, very good golf, so extremely pleased.

"It's what we play for, right, to be in contention, especially in these Rolex events. I'm happy that the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic is one as well. Can't wait for Sunday."

Rory McIlroy (66, 137)

"Could have been way lower. I certainly hit the ball well enough for it to be lower.

"I missed a few opportunities, but with the way these new greens are, they get a bit chewed up in the afternoons and start to wiggle a little bit if there's not a lot of speed on them but they are pretty quick as well and you don't want to be giving them too much of a run at the hole.

"So yeah, I certainly hit the ball as good as I've done in a long time, and it could have been a few better but 66 this afternoon is a good score and sets me up for a nice weekend."

Viktor Hovland (69, 137)

"Felt like I played a lot better yesterday. Was more solid tee-to-green.

"Today I kind of sprayed a lot of tee shots and hit some bad iron shots, but I played really well on my front nine, the back nine. So I kind of had a little cushion going into the front nine here.

"Managed to make a couple birdies, but just a few too many mistakes today to be able to shoot a real good score."

Paul Casey (68, 138)

"It's all right so far. I mean, I made some mistakes yesterday but the wind picked up today and I wasn't feeling 100 percent.

"Tweaked my shoulder or my neck, so I wasn't physically right there. So, not unhappy. I'm actually quite happy."

Lee Westwood (69, 138)

"I didn't play quite as well as yesterday. Over the first few days probably left a few out there but I played patient. Saw the greens on Tuesday and Wednesday, and they are very firm, and it didn't used to be a worry short-siding yourself around here. You could be really aggressive.

"But now it's tricky to get up-and-down in some spots. Treat it with a lot of respect and played some patient stuff, and a couple of 69s, good, solid stuff."

Social

Tommy and Shane Chase The Ace

Hatton holes out

Rory chips in for eagle

Rory drives the green

Monty's bunker masterclass

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