November 26, 2020

McIlroy shoots 30 on back nine in Dubai, trails by two

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Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland, looks for his ball in the rough around the 4th hole during the first round of Dubai World Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy shot a 30 on the back nine Thursday at the Dubai World Championship to gain the early advantage over top-ranked Luke Donald in the duel for the European money title.

The 22-year-old McIlroy had six birdies — including a 20-foot putt at the last — on the back nine for a 6-under 66 and finished third behind leader Peter Hanson of Sweden (64) and 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland (65).

Donald, who played alongside McIlroy, shot an even-par 72.

McIlroy, who came from behind to win last week’s Hong Kong Open, made a “couple of silly mistakes” on the front nine. The Northern Irishman had a double bogey on the second hole and bogeyed No. 8 after hitting over the back of the green.

“It was a perfect start to the tournament for me,” said McIlory, who has been complaining of fatigue from a lingering virus. “To shoot a great score like that really sets me up nicely for the next three days. The back nine was just pretty much flawless.

“I held some really, really nice putts. Just giving myself chances and opportunities for birdies, and lucky enough I was able to make a few.”

Donald made four birdies on the front nine but struggled on the back. He had three consecutive bogeys to finish tied for 26th.

The 34-year-old Englishman played his first tournament last week in South Africa after a five-week break so he could attend the birth of his second daughter and bury his father, who died unexpectedly last month.

“A mixture of two halves really,” Donald said. “I played solid the front nine and hit a few shots that cost me, poor drives on 14 and 15 and it was bit of a loose back nine, unfortunately. But trying to get better from here on out.”

Should Donald win the Race To Dubai, he would become the first to win both the European and American money titles. No player has won both, let alone in the same season.

McIlroy must win the $7.5 million tournament and hope Donald finishes outside the top nine to claim the European money title.

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