Relieved McIlroy eyes fast start to round three


Rory McIloy hopes to build on the late momentum he found on round two of the Dubai Desert Classic and close the gap on leader Rafa Cabrera-Bello on Saturday.

The four-time major winner found himself four over for the day with seven holes remaining at the Emirates Golf Club, leaving him on level par and in danger of missing the cut.

However, McIlroy - who won the tournament 12 months ago - showed the spirit of a champion to finish with a flourish of four birdies in six holes to get himself back to par for the day.

That leaves McIlroy four under for the tournament heading into round three, and he hopes to kick on and hunt down the leaders.

"I was definitely thinking about it [missing the cut], especially over a putt on 12," he said.

"I had a six-footer for par. If I missed that, one over for the tournament, it would have been a long way back from there. So to make that putt and play the next six holes in four under par was a nice way to finish.

"I struggled at the start of the round and around the middle. I needed something just to, first and foremost, be here for the weekend. Then birdying the last three holes, that definitely gives me a little bit of momentum going into the weekend.

"There's a lot of players between myself and the lead but, at the same time, I've come back from bigger deficits than this and this is one of my favourite places. 

"If I can get off to a faster start [in round three], you never know. Hopefully I can get out in the morning and post a good score."

Cabrera-Bello holds a one-shot lead thanks to a birdie on 18 for a round of 67, the Spaniard ahead of three players - including Ernie Els.

The 46-year-old, a three-time winner of the tournament, has struggled with the yips in recent times and by his own admission 2015 was one of the worst seasons of his career.

The South African - who has been trying out a new cross-handed grip - showed good touch on the greens, but he admits it is a surprise to be in contention at the top.

"Yeah it is quite nice and surprising a little bit," he said. "I probably won't hold up but will be in the mix or thereabouts and that is all I can ask for.

"I am now feeling comfortable. I was really nowhere and now I feel I have got some game."