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I'm starting to slip into my groove, says Rory McIlroy


By Phil Casey

Jamie Donaldson remains the man to catch after a weather-affected second day of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, with Rory McIlroy well placed in the chasing pack.

After fog delayed the start of play by two hours and 50 minutes, Donaldson added a 69 to his opening 62 at Emirates Golf Club to set the clubhouse target at 13 under par.

That gave the 42-year-old Welshman a one-shot lead over China's Li Haotong, who completed a second successive 66, with South Africa's Branden Grace a shot further back following a 65. Sweden's Alexander Bjork is also 11 under with six holes remaining.

A late double bogey meant 54-year-old Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez had to settle for a 68 to finish 10 under par alongside South Africa's Thomas Aiken, with McIlroy on the same score with seven holes to play.

World No.11 McIlroy made four birdies and a bogey in 11 holes before play was sus­pended.

"I'm in a good position," said the Ulsterman, who birdied the second, third and fifth before making his first bogey of the week at the eighth after carving his tee shot 60 yards right into the desert "It was hard waiting all day to go out there.

"I nearly got away with a par but dropped a shot. But it was nice to get a shot back there on 10 at the end of the round. Hopefully, I can come out in the morning and make a few more birdies.

"It will probably be a good test to play 26 holes tomorrow. We'll see how the body responds to it.

"I maybe didn't putt quite as well as I did yesterday, but I drove the ball a bit better and gave myself opportunities.

"I feel like I can put the ball on the fairway for the last few holes in the morning, create some more chances and try to get to the top of the leaderboard."

McIlroy's compatriot Graeme McDowell could do with a break but even after firing a bogey-free 68 there was no guarantee he'd make the cut.

The Portrush man (38) feels like a throwback to a bygone age in the era of the long bomber and admits it "sucks" to be one of the game's shorter hitters and 202nd in the world.

"I look around and the game is changing very rapidly," he said at the end of last year when he was dealing with a massive loss in ball speed. "There are guys there and all they want to do is hit it as far as they can and then take care of business from there."

McDowell knows that these are also some of the most skilled play­ers in the world but for all his long, straight driving this week, he found himself tied for 65th on four-under-par with Paul Dunne last night.

Both were left wondering if the 66 players yet to complete their rounds following the delay will push the cut to five-under par or struggle in cool morning conditions.

Darren Clarke shot 77 to finish on eight over and extend his streak of missed cuts on the Europe­an Tour to 18 months.

Leader Donaldson, who had flirted with carding the first 59 on the European Tour on Thursday, understandably struggled to reproduce that sort of scoring, but recorded four birdies and a solitary bogey in pursuit of a first win since December 2015.

"I have backed up low scores like that with another one but today it wasn't to be," Donaldson said. "But yeah, happy with a 69.

"It was pretty solid. I drove the ball well, my iron shots were good. I could have played the par-fives maybe a little bit better though."

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