DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed produced big first-round finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic on Friday in what could lead to an intriguing showdown as the competition heads to a Monday conclusion.
LIV Golf series players Richard Bland and Ian Poulter were tied atop the leaderboard at 8-under overall when second-round play was suspended Friday because of fading light. It was the second straight day of disrupted play at Emirates Golf Club.
McIlroy and Reed, another LIV golfer, were in the news after some pre-tournament friction between two of golf’s most high-profile players, and both completed their rounds at 6-under 66 in brief appearances on opposite ends of the course Friday.
Angel Hidalgo was one shot behind the leaders and Louis de Jager was at 6 under with McIlroy and Reed, who will start their second rounds Saturday.
Bland started his second round with three straight birdies and Poulter covered his first three holes in 1 under before play was suspended.
The competition will conclude on Monday, organizers said. Play had been suspended Thursday because of fading light following earlier delays from overnight rain that left the course unplayable.
Poulter and Ludvig Aberg, a Swede who is the world’s No. 1 amateur, shot 65s to share the lead after one round.
The top-ranked McIlroy, who had started on the 10th on Thursday, went birdie-eagle-birdie to complete his 66 after only seven shots on Friday. Reed eagled the par-5 18th.
McIlroy holed out from a fairway bunker on the par-4 8th for an unlikely eagle. The Northern Irishman described his play Thursday — when he was 2 under after playing 15 holes — as “very sloppy.”
“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,” the two-time winner said after the first round.
Reed, a former Masters champion, had completed 16 holes Thursday at 4 under and resumed with a par before a closing eagle, holing from 15 feet.
“To come out this week and feel like I was able to put everything together and to have my mind right on game planning and course management was definitely a plus,” the American said.
The pre-tournament buildup focused on discord between McIlroy and Reed, who is one of the high-profile players to have joined the exodus to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf breakaway league. McIlroy, a vocal critic of LIV, ignored Reed on Tuesday at the practice range.
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