After a lengthy weather delay and a suspension of play because of darkness on Thursday, Rory McIlroy returned to the course Friday at the Dubai Desert Classic with three holes remaining in his opening round.
He immediately resumed with a birdie, which was almost a given, since he had marked a 4-foot putt on the par-3 seventh (his 16th) before exiting the evening before.
But those final two holes were plenty exciting. At the par-4 eighth, after driving into a fairway bunker, McIlroy holed out for eagle with a 54-degree wedge from 116 yards.
“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,” McIlroy said after his round. “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. Again, anything inside of 20 feet, I would have been happy with, so that was certainly a bonus.”
Then, after driving into the rough at the par-4 ninth, McIlroy stuffed his approach shot inside 5 feet for a birdie-eagle-birdie finish.
McIlroy signed for a 6-under 66, tied with, among others following the first round, Patrick Reed. Their group was one off the eventual lead, held by Ian Poulter and amateur Ludvig Aberg.
“I came out and I don’t really know if anything clicked because I don’t think I hit enough shots to know,” he said. “But it was definitely needed. Like I would have been happy with anything around 70 the way I played (to start Thursday’s round), and then to come in and shoot 66 is quite the bonus.”
McIlroy didn’t play any of his second round as darkness again halted the event. He and the rest of the field will complete Round 2 on Saturday and play Rounds 3 and 4 on Sunday and Monday, respectively.