No13 proves unlucky for Stenson

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Wayward: Henrik Stenson

In a rather scary manner, Henrik Stenson was once again reminded how loved he is in the city that was his home for almost one decade.

On a day when his radar-guided irons were malfunctioning, the Race to Dubai leader endured a frightening moment when his tee shot on the 13th hole veered right and long, and smashed into the forehead of a lady spectator.

Even as the paramedics attended her on the golf course, she kept a brave face and told the onlookers and a concerned Stenson that he was her “favourite golfer in the world”.

“I didn’t expect her to say that after being hit. It was a very unfortunate circumstance,” said Stenson, who posted a battling round of three-under par 69 to be tied 17th at three-under par going into the weekend.

“I flared my 5-iron right and I’m standing there thinking, is it going in the bunker or flying over the bunker, and next thing, I see it go into the crowd and hit someone. It was actually a mis-hit up into the wind and it went further than the pin number, so I think something was quirky there.

“Unfortunately, I hit the lady and she went down. But I had some reports later in the round that she was doing okay. Of course, you get shocked when you get hit like that and it’s painful. I’m just making sure that we’re going to get her details so I can send her something nice.”

Stenson was saved time and again by his putter, including making two crucial par saves on the 13th and 14th holes from more than 20 feet. That helped him stay in touch with his rivals for the European No1 crown.

At the halfway stage, the Race to Dubai No2 Danny Willett added a 70 to be tied alongside Stenson, while compatriot Alex Noren, who is ranked third, was only one ahead.

“I’m definitely not playing great, but I had some more chances today and the putter was behaving a lot better than yesterday. So yeah, made some really nice putts out there and made a few for birdies. It was definitely the putter that kept it together today,” said Stenson.

“It’s a bit of a grind, but I’m hanging in there and fighting hard. I know the guys are going to come at me. I know it’s going to be a long weekend and they are going to keep on pushing me. So I’m just trying to do my best.”

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Joint-leader Garcia knows the territory

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Looking good: Sergio Garcia built on his opening round 68.

Many years ago, Sergio Garcia was close to forging a deep relationship with Jumeirah Golf Estates. The Spaniard, along with the legendary Pete Dye and Greg Norman, was announced as designer of the Wind course that was supposed to be a part of the property.

That did not materialize as the economic downturn in 2009 forced the developers to change the masterplan. But ask Garcia about it, and he gets a bit emotional. After all, Wind was supposed to be his debut as a golf course designer.

“It’s a shame it did not happen. I was looking forward to working with Pete Dye and Greg. We really had some great plans for the golf course,” said Garcia.

On Friday, however, Garcia showed he has some great plans for the Earth course too. The Spaniard, known as one of the finest ball-strikers in the game, put together a masterclass as a five-under par 67 gave him the lead at the DP World Tour Championship at nine-under par, which was matched moments later by Italy’s Francesco Molinari.

A final-hole bogey by overnight leader Lee Westwood (70) denied him a share of the lead as he took sole possession of the third place at eight-under par, while a group of four players – England’s Tyrrell Hatton (66), Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger (67), South African Charl Schwartzel (67) and Dutchman Joost Luiten (69) – were tied for the fourth place at seven-under par.

The most exciting moment in Garcia’s round came on the par-4 12th hole, one of two holes he erred off the tee, the other being the 13th, where he made his only bogey.

After hitting his drive left into the bushes and being forced to take a penalty drop, the world No15 still managed to make what he called a “career four”.

“I was fortunate a guy from the crowd found it for me and I was able to drop outside the bush,” said the man whose last European Tour win was in January 2014 at the Qatar Masters.

“I hit a really good shot from there with a seven iron and made a really nice putt. I had a good feeling on that putt. I felt like I was going to make it and it was one of those career fours.”

Overall, Garcia was delighted with the way he played the first two days.

“It was good fun. I mean, I try to enjoy myself as much as possible every time. Obviously, when you’re playing well, it’s a little easier. It was a good day,” said the Spanish Ryder Cup star.

“I did feel quite comfortable, other than a couple shots on the back nine, the tee shot on 12 and 13. But other than that, I felt quite comfortable.

“I felt like I was swinging the club really, really well. I was hitting a lot of good shots. Hit a couple iffy putts here and there but I made some really good ones also. I was very happy to see all of that.”

Molinari seemed to be celebrating the good news about his elder brother Edoardo, who had lost his European Tour playing privilege, regaining his card by finishing second in the Qualifying School.

Molinari matched Garcia with six birdies and a solitary bogey, and said: “It was another good day and I played well.

“Maybe yesterday the start was even better, but played solid pretty much all the round. I think I had a little lapse in concentration on the 10th and then recovered well. I’m happy where I am after two rounds.

“This is the second year Edoardo has done this through the Qualifying School. I’m sure he will do his best next season not to show up there for a third time. It sounds like he’s playing a lot better, so I’m expecting good things from him next season.”

Westwood looked in good position to retain sole possession of the lead after a great drive down the par-5 18th hole, but his second shot rolled into the water and he ended up with a bogey.

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McIlroy gets off his sunbed to shoot a 68

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Brightening up: Rory McIlroy.

Rory McIlroy’s first round at the DP World Tour Championship was what the statisticians call an outlier – a freak reading that is miles away from other observations.

That 75 was his first-ever over-par effort in 29 rounds, starting from the opening day of the inaugural event in 2009. But yesterday, it was business as usual as the world No2 returned to his sub-par ways at the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

The Northern Irishman shot a four-under par 68, completing his round nearly an hour before the leaders teed off and moving to one-under par for the tournament at the halfway stage.

After a round of six birdies and two bogeys, the reigning FedEx Cup champion said: “I held a few more putts today. Mentally on Friday, I was still on holiday I think. I just wasn’t really with it. Wasn’t at the races. I felt a bit better out there on Saturday.

“I think I was still on the beach after two weeks off. I wasn’t switched on. It was just a bad day.”

McIlroy, who needs to win the tournament to have any chance of winning a third Race to Dubai honour, did not rule himself out just yet.

“I’m five behind the lead right now, but you know, depending on what Lee (Westwood) and some of the guys that played well yesterday do – I am hoping for a bit of wind this afternoon and some difficult conditions – if one of the guys doesn’t get past 10-under this afternoon, then I feel like I still have a bit of a chance going into the weekend,” said McIlroy moments after finishing his round.

“Even if I’m eight or nine shots back heading into the weekend, I still feel I’ll have a decent chance. If I keep improving I might not be far away.”

On Saturday, McIlroy will tee off at 10:15 along with Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren.

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