Marc Warren will play with world No 1 Rory McIlroy for only the second time in his life in Dubai today – and the circumstances are certainly different.
Warren remembers being paired with McIlroy at Walton Heath in a US Open qualifier. “I think he was about four at the time,” joked the Scot.
It was actually 2008 and the 19-year-old McIlroy was already destined for greatness, but both failed to get through to Torrey Pines – scene of Tiger Woods’ last major victory – that day.
Now the duo, separated by 188 places on the rankings, are tied for the halfway lead with world No 2 Luke Donald at the DP World Tour Championship. A massive first prize of almost £840,000 is up for grabs and while it could be McIlroy’s fifth victory of the season or Donald’s fourth – and second in a row – former World Cup winner Warren is hoping to end more than five years without a title.
“Everyone knew from day one that Rory was special and I’m really looking forward to it,” said the 31-year-old after outscoring 2001 Walker Cup team-mate Donald by one with his second round of 67.
That may have just delayed a head-to-head clash between golf’s current top two for 24 hours, but Warren takes great heart from how he performed.
“Little things like that, it does wonders for your confidence,” he added. “It’s going to be a great weekend. The atmosphere is buzzing already so I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like tomorrow and Sunday as well.
“It’s nice to be the Scot with the Englishman and the Northern Irishman. It’s a high-quality leaderboard and doesn’t get any better in the world really.” McIlroy also managed a 67 after fighting with what he thinks was a touch of sunstroke following his opening 66.
“When I came off the course I had a really sore head and fever,” he said. “I just took painkillers and Caroline (girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki) squeezed about five lemons into a glass and I took that.
“I had some sort of vitamin and mineral drink too. It made me a feel a little bit better, but with the anti-doping and all that we can’t really take much. I’m not feeling great again now, the sun’s taking it out of me a bit.”
Only a stroke behind the three leaders are South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, with Richie Ramsay also in contention with two rounds to go on nine-under after his second-day 68.
Spanish Ryder Cup star Sergio Garcia equalled the course record of 64 with a mind-blowing round of two eagles, nine birdies, only four pars – none of them on the back nine – two bogeys and a triple-bogey 7.