Thomas Detry leads, MacIntyre one behind, Tommy Fleetwood in the hunt again and so is Tyrrell Hatton after a superb response to his opening 76. Watch coverage of the weekend action live on Sky Sports Golf.
Robert MacIntyre heads a strong British challenge heading into the weekend of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic as Tyrrell Hatton stormed back into contention on day two.
MacIntyre added a 68 to his opening 67 to install himself as early clubhouse leader, although he was later surpassed by Thomas Detry, playing in the penultimate group of the day at The Emirates Golf Club.
Tommy Fleetwood is just two behind at the halfway stage with English veterans Lee Westwood and Paul Casey one further back, while Hatton responded to his opening 76 with a magnificent 64 that put him within striking distance of the leader.
Hatton, a handsome four-shot winner in Abu Dhabi last week which saw him become world No 5 and British No 1 ahead of Rory McIlroy, needed something special just to avoid an early exit having made only one birdie against five bogeys on day one.
But he went beyond merely extending his tournament, ensuring he would go into the weekend with genuine title aspirations after a brilliant performance which yielded eight birdies and a chip-in for eagle at the third as he raced to four under overall.
A pinpoint approach to a foot at the opening hole set the tone for Hatton’s comeback, although he also enjoyed a couple of good breaks as he followed his pitch-in at the third with a hole-out from a greenside bunker at the sixth.
Hatton finished the front nine as he started it, and three straight birdies from the 11th would have certainly attracted the attention of the leading contenders, with Belgian Detry heading the field after back-to-back 67s and not a single bogey on his card after 36 holes.
MacIntyre admitted his 68 was “not as pretty” as his opening 67, but he was delighted to keep the mistakes at bay and grind out a four-birdie round despite not being on top of his game in the early stages of Friday.
“I felt I was out of rhythm early on, and we couldn’t get any momentum within the group, which was difficult, but I hung in there and I putted great,” said the rising Scot, who is on the cusp of the world’s top 50 and fully aware that another big week in Dubai would get him into the upcoming WGC events, The Players Championship and the Masters.
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“It’s a goal of mine, but it’s all taken care of by good golf,” he added. “And what I’m doing just now is I’m playing good golf and starting to find a stride with the irons. If I continue to do that, then that should hopefully take care of that. I’m sticking to what I’ve been doing the last two days or the last week and a half, and just enjoying myself.”
Fleetwood was hanging onto the coattails of the leaders for much of the day and finished in style, an eagle at the last capping a second straight 68 which lifted him to eight under alongside Justin Harding and Kalle Samooja.
Westwood flexed his muscles and provided some “excitement” at the last, finding the green in two from the rough to confound Fleetwood’s caddie, Ian Finnis, who had expected the veteran to chop his ball back into play following a wayward drive.
“Finno thought I’d just hit wedge out of the rough and lay it up and knock it on, but I had a pretty nice lie and only 191 to the front, so went at it with a hybrid,” said a proud Westwood. “A bit of excitement in your life every now and again, it’s good, isn’t it?”
Although he could not match Fleetwood’s eagle, Westwood’s two-putt birdie rounded off a 68 which saw him close on seven under with compatriot and prospective Ryder Cup team-mate Casey, who made his fourth birdie of the day at the last for a 70.
Sergio Garcia could not emulate the solid all-round form that was a feature of his opening 66, although he did manage to birdie the last to salvage a 73 after losing his way on the back-nine, following a bogey at 15 with a double-bogey at the next.
The 2017 winner slipped to five under and stayed one ahead of Hatton and Justin Rose, who compiled a cautious three-birdie 69, while defending champion Lucas Herbert is also four under par at the halfway stage after a similar response to Hatton’s bouncing back from a first-round 74 with a 66.
Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington proved he can still compete at the highest level as he added a 69 to his opening 71 to make it a quartet of players on four under, while PGA champion Collin Morikawa squeezed into the final 36 holes with nothing to spare after struggling to a 73.
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But Ian Poulter’s valiant attempt to avoid a weekend off fell just short as he lipped out with a birdie putt at the last having given himself a great chance to qualify with an eagle at the 10th followed by three straight birdies from the 13th.
HIs misfortune at the last completed a 69 which saw him close on one over along with Andrew “Beef” Johnston, while Henrik Stenson was another high-profile casualty after an error-strewn 77.