Puddles lead to guddle and Monday finish in Hero Dubai Desert Classic

It’s been a bit of a guddle so far. So much so, in fact, that the 34th edition of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic will extend into an unprecedented fifth day. A Monday finish was confirmed by tournament organisers after delays totalling almost ten hours because of flooding at Emirates Golf Club took their toll.

The plan now is for the second round to be completed on Saturday, the third round to follow on Sunday with a one-tee start then

the final circuit taking place on Monday with a two-tee start to build in a bit of breathing space.

“This is one of the biggest events on the DP World Tour and we clearly want to make every effort possible to get to 72 holes,” said tournament director Mike Stewart, speaking to reporters, as the rain hammered down on the media centre roof.

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“I think the vast majority of players want it to be 72 holes. That’s the message we’ve received from them. That’s what they want to do and I think it’s the right thing to do for the championship.”

A general view of the golf course as overnight rain causes disruption during the Hero Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images.A general view of the golf course as overnight rain causes disruption during the Hero Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images.
A general view of the golf course as overnight rain causes disruption during the Hero Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images.

The decision was welcomed by Ewen Ferguson, a two-time winner on the DP World Tour last season. “It was a tough day and I was struggling a wee bit,” he said. “I was on edge all day and I feel a bit more relaxed about the decision.”

More than 60mm of rain has fallen on the Majlis Course inside two days. “To get the golf course ready yesterday and then be doing the same overnight was absolutely incredible,” said Stewart. “I've got to take my hat off to them because this is just amazing that we've played golf these past two days.

“Their preparation took eight hours yesterday from three in the morning until we actually kicked off to get the golf course ready for us, bailing out bunkers, fixing damaged bunker edges and mowing every blade of grass pretty much as well on top of it. To then be doing the same overnight was absolutely incredible.”

The forecast for the weekend is more promising, but there was no way that the time lost so far could be made up to complete the $9 million Rolex Series event on schedule. “I looked it up yesterday just to find out because this is fairly rare,” said Stewart, an Inverness man, of the bad weather.

Rory McIlroy celebrates after holing out for an eagle-2 on the eight hole at Emirates Golf Club during the opening round of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images.Rory McIlroy celebrates after holing out for an eagle-2 on the eight hole at Emirates Golf Club during the opening round of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images.
Rory McIlroy celebrates after holing out for an eagle-2 on the eight hole at Emirates Golf Club during the opening round of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images.

When play was suspended due to darkness on Friday, English duo Ian Poulter and Richard Bland, two of the LIV Golf players in the field and possibly playing their last event on the circuit in an upcoming arbitration case goes against them, shared the lead on eight-under-par, one ahead of Spaniard Angel Hidalgo.

World No 1 Rory McIlroy sits one shot back, as does Patick Reed, after producing a sensational finish to his disrupted opening round. Following a delay of just over six hours on Thursday due to flooding, McIlroy still had three holes to complete on Friday morning and resumed sitting on two-under-par - three shots behind Belgian Thomas Pieters.

After another two-hour delay following more rain overnight in the UAE, the four-time major winner went birdie-eagle-birdie at the end of the tougher front nine. Playing in the same group as Tommy Fleetwood and Ryan Fox, McIlroy rolled in a four-footer for a 2 at the short seventh before holing out with a 54-degree wedge from 114 yards from the desert for an eagle-2 at the next.

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His drive at the tough par-4 ninth missed the fairway on the right but, from 159 yards, he knocked his approach to around four feet and knocked in the putt to round off a brilliant burst.

“Honestly not very good,” said McIlroy in reply to being asked to sum up his opening effort. “I struggled out there most of yesterday. And then, yeah, today I came out and I don't really know if anything clicked because I don't think I hit enough shots to know. But it was definitely needed. I would have been happy with anything around 70 the way I played, and then to come in and shoot 66 is quite the bonus.”

His smile lit up as he was then asked about the eighth. “You know, I wouldn't say I'm the best fairway bunker player in the world. The desert is a little nicer, it's a little more packed down, so you get some better lies,” he said.

“All I was thinking about was catching it clean. My tendency out of those lies is to hit it a little bit heavy. As soon as I struck it - went down the grip a little bit just to make sure of the strike - I knew it came out really nicely and it was right down the pin. Again, anything inside of 20 feet, I would have been happy with, so that was certainly a bonus.”

McIlroy’s opening effort was matched by Patrick Reed, who also made an eagle - his one came from 15 feet at the 18th as he played the opposite way around - on his return this morning.

Reed and McIlroy, of course, have been at the centre of the big talking point in golf this week after an incident on the range earlier in the week, when Reed tossed a tee in McIlroy’s direction after approaching him to say ‘hello’ but being ignored.

McIlroy explained the next day that he hadn’t seen what has been dubbed ‘TeeGate’ but he said he didn’t really want to speak to the American after getting a subpoena from Reed’s lawyer in his defamation case against the PGA Tour among others.

Reed said on Thursday that he felt the spat had been “nothing”, but the prospect of the pair going head-to-head at some point over the weekend is now a distinct possibility.

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