ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Rory McIlroy rolled in a 6-foot birdie putt at the last and was set to join Collin Morikawa in making the cut on the number in a brutal second round at the Abu Dhabi Championship that brought some of the world’s best golfers to their knees Friday.
Gusts of up to 40 mph (64 kph) off the coastline of the Persian Gulf caused havoc at Yas Links, with just five of the 93 players who completed their round shooting under par in conditions typically associated with The Open.
Scott Jamieson ended the day where he started it – in the lead – despite a 2-over 74 that was 11 shots worse than he hit on Thursday. Viktor Hovland remained in second place, still a stroke off the lead, after also shooting 74.
As for McIlroy and Morikawa, the two star names in the field, they were both 3 over for the tournament and just glad to be on course to make the weekend.
McIlroy reached the 18th tee below the projected cut and on course to finish a round without a birdie for the first time since the 2017 US Open. He avoided that by getting up and down from 43 yards to shoot a 75.
“A putt can change by a cup or more. It’s just really tricky,” he said. “I can’t remember when it’s been like this here.”
Morikawa, the world No. 2 and Open champion, also made only one birdie in a round of 74.
Tyrrell Hatton, the defending champion in Abu Dhabi, made double bogey at the last for a 77 and signaled his frustration by using his putter like a gun and taking aim at the cup.
“You’re playing defensive on every single shot,” Hovland said, summing up his round. “It was just a really grinding day.”
The conditions aren’t forecast to be so severe over the weekend, which will start with 38 players completing their second rounds after play was suspended Friday because of darkness.
One of them is James Morrison, who was even par after 14 holes of his second round and alongside Hovland and Ian Poulter on 6 under overall.
Midway through the round, officials used electric leaf-blowers to remove sand strewn across greens. Lee Westwood backed off a putt at one stage with his ball appearing to wobble.
“This is the toughest I’ve played in,” said Scottish player Bob MacIntyre, who also was likely to make the cut on the number and compared the conditions to what he experienced at The Open at Royal Portrush in 2019, when he tied for sixth on his major debut.
It was not surprising, therefore, to see Shane Lowry, the champion that year at Portrush, handling the weather in shooting 72 to move into a share of fifth place.
“I’d prefer it was calm, but I know how to play in those conditions,” Lowry said. “I think about it a lot less and I just hit the shots I see. That’s what makes me so good in the wind, I think. I just kind of play with a lot of feel.”
For many, it marked a tough return to the DP World Tour after a break over the festive period
“It’s never going to be this windy in the offseason, so you don’t really go and practice in it,” said Poulter, who was happy with his round of 72 that left him tied for second place in the clubhouse with Hovland.
“You know, you’ve got to go into the archive and sort and of try and remember some of the shots you’ve played in the past.”
Jamieson stayed in front despite a wobble midway through his round where he made two bogeys and three-putted for a double bogey in a five-hole span.