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Rory has clear view of leaders despite fading light

By Phil Casey

Published 23/01/2016

Trouble: Rory McIlroy takes a drop on the 9th hole during the second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
Trouble: Rory McIlroy takes a drop on the 9th hole during the second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

Rory McIlroy is playing catch-up at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after fading light meant it was unlucky 13th for the Ulsterman and his superstar playing partners Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

The trio's second round ground to a halt at the 13th hole with McIlroy and Fowler five off the 10-under pace set by Andy Sullivan, while world number one Spieth is a further two behind his playing partners.

Michael Hoey completed his second round and is on three under, while fellow Ulsterman and Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke is one under after also finishing his round.

The start of play was delayed by two hours and 45 minutes because of thick fog, and the second round will be completed today, when the third round will also be played.

McIlroy started his round with eight straight pars before a bogey on the ninth, where his pushed drive finished in rocks on the edge of a lake.

Spieth had already bogeyed the fourth and fifth and was lucky not to drop more shots on the same hole, his drive heading towards the water - on the other side of the fairway to McIlroy - before hitting a spectator and finishing in the rough.

The Masters and US Open champion - who started his season by shooting 30 under par to win the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii by eight shots - found the edge of the green with his approach and left his birdie attempt inches short, but picked up his first shot of the day on the next to ease concerns about missing the cut in his first regular European Tour event.

Sullivan followed a flying start with an equally fast finish to further impress Ryder Cup skipper Clarke by claiming the clubhouse lead.

Sullivan began his round with three successive birdies and ended it the same way to card a second successive 67.

At 10 under par the former supermarket shelf-stacker led by one from American amateur Bryson DeChambeau, who had nine holes remaining.

Sullivan, who compiled a perfect 3-0 record under Clarke's captaincy in the EurAsia Cup last week and was paired with the 2011 Open champion and Scotland's Russell Knox in Abu Dhabi, said: "I'm just trying to kick on. I don't want to be the guy that makes my career by winning three times in one season. I want to win as many tournaments as I can.

"I've used that momentum from last week and that was just a little taster of what the Ryder Cup would be like. That's going to be 10-fold.

"Darren knows what I can do so I don't think it was imperative (to play well here), but it bodes well when you do. It's good to do it face to face. Since I first got out on tour he's been a really good mentor to me and a good friend. It's just lucky he's the Ryder Cup captain."

Sullivan is fourth in the Ryder Cup qualifying race and Clarke joked he could not rely on one of his three wild cards after the pair exchanged jibes all the way round.

"He is playing beautifully, really nicely," Clarke said after a 70 left him on the projected cut mark of one under.

"He is 10 under but he could be 14 or 15 because he is playing great.

"He is a quality ball striker. There are lots of brilliant young kids out here but not many of them move the ball both ways and with different trajectory. He does it all and I love playing with people like that. He is a proper shot-maker.

"He is fun to play with and I really enjoy his company. He has taken the p*** out of me and I have told him if he keeps this up, a pick is out of the question!"

Asked how he replied to Clarke's jokes about his height, the diminutive Sullivan added: "He's got 60 on his ball (recalling his two 60s on the European Tour) and on the first tee I said I didn't realise you put your age on the ball!"

Belfast Telegraph

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