DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Top-ranked Rory McIlroy and rival Patrick Reed were two shots off the lead at the halfway point of the Dubai Desert Classic on Saturday.
Richard Bland, Thomas Pieters and amateur Michael Thorbjornsen all reached 10-under overall at Emirates Golf Club for a share of the lead after two rounds of the weather-impacted tournament, which will conclude Monday.
Thorbjornsen, who is No. 2 in the world amateur rankings, shot an 8-under 64. He started on the 10th and birdied five of his first six holes before chipping for an eagle at the par-5 18th. He added a bogey and two more birdies.
“I enjoy playing professional golf a lot and I’m still an amateur,” the Stanford University junior said, “but just the golf courses that we play, the crowd out there, it’s what I’m dreaming of ever since I was five or six years old.”
Pieters recorded seven birdies on the back nine to close out his 67.
Bland posted his second straight round of 67 and has made just one bogey at the halfway mark.
Marcus Kinhult, Connor Syme and Adri Arnaus were all one shot back of the leaders.
McIlroy and Reed made headlines with some pre-tournament friction between them on the practice range, but they’ll play in different groups in Sunday’s third round.
Like Reed, McIlroy shot a 70 on Saturday. The Northern Irishman mixed a birdie and a bogey with an eagle at the par-5 13th.
“I only hit two fairways today,” McIlroy said. “When you can’t hit fairways around here, and the rough is quite thick, it’s very hard to have any control of your ball and get it close into par fours. Yeah, just a little rusty. Need to go do a little work.”
Alongside Reed and McIlroy at 8 under were Matt Wallace, Dan Bradbury, Ian Poulter, Bernd Wiesberger, Lucas Herbert and Angel Hidalgo.
The competition will conclude on Monday because of delays over the past two days caused by wet weather then fading light.
Reed, a former Masters champion who is one of the high-profile players to have joined the Saudi-backed LIV Golf breakaway league, had three birdies and a bogey.
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