Dubai: Defending champion Henrik Stenson overcame fatigue to punish hesitant play from overnight pacesetter Rory McIlroy, taking a two-stroke lead over the world number one in the second round of the $8 million DP World Tour Championship on Friday.
Stenson, who shot a tournament record 25-under last year, picked up shots at holes one, two and five, and the 38-year-old completed a flawless back nine peppered with four birdies for a round of 66 and a score of 10 under par.
“I felt like I hit the wall on 12,” Stenson told reporters. “If it`s one or two holes left, you normally feel `okay, I can hang on`. I had to focus hard and drag myself over the finish line.”
The stage had seemed set for McIlroy, already crowned European money list winner for a second season in three, to assert his dominance, but the Northern Irishman toiled despite a first-hole birdie.
McIlroy, 25, sunk 10 successive pars before bogeying the par-four 12. He dropped another shot at 16, but birdies at 14, 15 and 17 and a par on the 18th despite finding water enabled the four-times major winner to finish on 70 and an aggregate 136.
“I just didn`t quite have it,” McIlroy, 25 told reporters.
“It wasn`t quite as easy as it was yesterday, hopefully that`s the bad one out of the way. I have 36 holes to make ground up on Henrik. I can`t let him get too far ahead tomorrow.”
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay (69) and England’s Danny Willett (67) are tied with McIlroy in joint second on 136.
Five players are a stroke further back, including Lowry (71), who bolstered a difficult round with a hole-in-one at the 187-yard par-three 13th, and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello (64).
The Spaniard made seven birdies in the first 10 holes before successive bogeys at 11 and 12 blunted his charge, but an eagle 14th and a birdie on 17 added a final gloss to what was the lowest score of this year’s event.
“I played really good and it looked simple,” the 30-year-old told reporters. “I know there are also very tricky holes out there. I got a couple bogeys myself, too, just blinking, really, so you have to be very careful.”