Former Open Champion Shane Lowry fired seven under par round of 65 to take a share of the halfway lead in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai along with Sam Horsfield and John Catlin, as opening round leader Rory McIlroy slipped a shot back after a double-bogey finish.
McIlroy followed his opening round 65 with some more impressive play as he carded three birdies on the front nine, before dropping a shot on the tenth hole. Further birdies on the 11th and 16th gave him a one shot advantage playing the last but his tee shot found the bunker and his third shot trickled back into the water protecting the 18th green.
“I’m playing nicely,” said McIlroy. “I started well again today and hit a lot of good shots on the front nine. It was sort of a little scrappy around the middle but was able to hang in there with my short game.
“I still feel like I played well and I feel like 70 is sort of the worst I could have shot today, especially with the finish and hopefully that’s the bad one out of the way.”
After taking a penalty drop in the fringe, the four-time Major Champion then left his chip short and two putted for a double bogey seven, signing for round of 70 to go from one ahead to one behind on nine under par.
McIlroy’s Ryder Cup partner Lowry had earlier set the clubhouse target in the final Rolex Series event of 2021 after firing five birdies and an eagle on the 14th to move to ten under. He was then joined on that mark by Englishman Horsfield, who carded five consecutive birdies from the sixth in a 66, and American Catlin who went one better, surging up the leaderboard with a 65 after five birdies in six holes after the turn.
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) November 19, 2021
Lowry finished joint second behind Jon Rahm in the 2017 DP World Tour Championship and he is seeking his first European Tour win since lifting the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush in 2019.
“I feel like my game is in good shape and I feel like I know my way around this place and I know how to play here,” said the Irishman. “I’m happy to be atop of the leaderboard, late tee time tomorrow and I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Sweden’s Alexander Björk shares fourth position with McIlroy after a 67, while Collin Morikawa further strengthened his bid to win the Race to Dubai with second successive 68 to share sixth place with former World Number One Martin Kaymer (68), two shots back on eight under par.
Only five other players can potentially deny the Race to Dubai leader the chance to become the first American player to be crowned European Tour Number One, and of those Paul Casey and Matt Fitzpatrick are best placed in the tournament, with both Englishman carding rounds of 69 to sit give shots back on five under par.
Morikawa’s fellow American Billy Horschel, the only player aside from the Open Champion who can win the Race to Dubai without winning the tournament, signed for a round of 70 and is ten shots off the pace in tied 43rd.