The majority of stars donned pink to support breast cancer awareness yesterday at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic – although for Matthew Southgate, the gesture would have particularly resonated.
The 29-year-old Englishman is a testicular cancer survivor, having battled the disease in 2015. His own battle came months after niece Hettie, then only two-years-old, was diagnosed with leukaemia.
His illness led to the loss of his European Tour card, which he regained for 2016 by qualifying from European Tour Q-School.
As the world number 142 has slowly been regaining his health, so too has his form recovered.
He finished fourth behind Rory McIlroy at the 2016 Irish Open, qualifying for the Open Championship by winning the final qualifying at Royal Cinque Ports.
Australia Day, his 32nd birthday and making the cut at Emirates Golf Club for the first time in six attempts – it was some day for Andrew Dodt.
The passionate Australian followed up his -5 under par opening round 67 with a -3 under par 69 on day two at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic Friday.
It gave him a share of 14th place going into moving day. And even though a double bogey on his final hole, the ninth, which would have placed him three shots off the lead in fifth alongside Rory McIlroy and Miguel Angel Jimenez, instead left him five shots back, the birthday boy was happy to have his cake and eat it.
“I’m not really worried about the last hole. It was 35 holes of solid golf so if you make a mistake or two around this course, you just have to accept it and move on,” said the Brisbane native, ranked 188th in the world.
“It was a little disappointing to finish the way I did but it’s a tricky hole and if you’re off by three or four yards you get penalised. And I paid the price.”
Jamie Donaldson remains the man to catch after a weather-affected second day of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, with Rory McIlroy well placed in the chasing pack.
After fog delayed the start of play by two hours and 50 minutes, Donaldson added a 69 to his opening 62 at Emirates Golf Club to set the clubhouse target at 13 under par.
That gave the 42-year-old Welshman a one-shot lead over China’s Li Haotong, who completed a second successive 66, with South Africa’s Branden Grace a shot further back following a 65. Sweden’s Alexander Bjork is also 11 under with six holes remaining.
A late double bogey meant 54-year-old Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez had to settle for a 68 to finish 10 under par alongside South Africa’s Thomas Aiken, with McIlroy on the same score with seven holes to play.
Donaldson, who had flirted with carding the first 59 on the European Tour on Thursday, understandably struggled to reproduce that sort of scoring, but recorded four birdies and a solitary bogey in pursuit of a first win since December 2015.
“I have backed up low scores like that with another one but today it wasn’t to be,” Donaldson told Sky Sports. “But yeah, quite happy with a 69.
“It was pretty solid again. Drove the ball well. Iron shots were good. Took the birdies generally when I hit it close enough, could have played the par fives maybe a little bit better. I went for it a bit on the last there, trying to get it right around the corner and blocked myself out.
“If you shoot three under on the par fives as opposed to one, then it’s a different day. But overall I’m happy.”
McIlroy made a flying start to his second round with three birdies in the first five holes, before dropping his first shot of the week following a wayward drive on the eighth.
The four-time major winner, who marked his first competitive start since October with a tie for third in Abu Dhabi last week, bounced back with a birdie on the 10th and parred the next before play was suspended for the day.
The second round is scheduled to resume at 7.30am local time on Saturday.