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.”
Dodt, who turned professional in 2007, missed successive cuts here from 2011-13 as well as the last two years, so he’s ecstatic to be in the running for this year’s title.
“It’s the first time I’ve made the cut in (six) years so I don’t know what course I was playing the last (six) years, but it’s nice to make it to four rounds finally,” he said.
“I’m two rounds in so another solid two would be nice to set the year up. I’m pleased with today’s round but I’ve got to get on with it.”
Dodt was all smiles after finishing his round, despite the poor end to it. That might have had something to do with the birthday cake he was presented with in the mixed zone.
His score, and his performance over the first two days in Dubai, is something that made an already special day even more poignant.
“I’m a massive Aussie fan and a proud Aussie but you can’t beat a birthday,” added Dodt, buoyed by a fervent following he had around the course from a sizeable Australian community here in Dubai.
“There was a guy roaring and clapping everything in to the hole. He was really aggressive but it’s good. You don’t get that support all year so it’s nice to have it here.”
Dodt, who is staying with a friend from home who lives in Dubai, said he would celebrate his achievement accordingly, while keeping in mind he’s in the unfamiliar position of having a trophy to fight for.
“Australia Day for me and most Aussies, it’d normally be beach in the morning, barbecue at lunch and just that all day.
“It’s a massive day in Australia and if it’s good weather, everyone goes to the beach, has a barbecue. That’s normally what I’d be doing but I’ve got a tournament to play.”
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.
Former Ryder Cup star Jamie Donaldson flirted with carding the first 59 on the European Tour before having to settle for an opening 62 in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Donaldson, who secured the winning point for Europe at Gleneagles in 2014, began his round on the back nine of Emirates Golf Club and fired nine birdies and an eagle in his first 16 holes.
That left the Welshman needing two more birdies to break the magical 60 barrier, but after almost chipping in on the eighth and tapping in for par, the 42-year-old bogeyed the ninth to miss out on equalling the course record of 61.
Donaldson still ended the day with a one-shot lead over David Horsey and Anthony Wall, with Tyrrell Hatton a shot further back and Rory McIlroy part of a group on seven under on a day when more than 100 of the 132-strong field broke par.
Donaldson reached a career high of 23rd in the world in 2014 but has struggled for form and fitness since winning the Thailand Golf Championship in December 2015 and was lucky to escape serious injury to his left hand the following month after an accident with a chainsaw while gardening.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I was thinking about it (shooting 59),” the world number 292 told Sky Sports. “I birdied five and then thought if I just birdie them all coming in I’ve done it.
“Sometimes you’re best not thinking and just keep playing but I was picturing birdieing them all and then jumping in the lake on the last.
“Unfortunately I pushed my tee shots on eight and nine but I’m very happy with how I’ve played and 59 is only a bonus, isn’t it? It’s icing on the cake. Everybody wants to shoot 59, but it’s something that is only on if you’re playing really good golf and that’s gone now, so it’s just a case of more of the same moving on.”
McIlroy had earlier enjoyed more of the same with a bogey-free 65 which takes him to 25 under par for the first five rounds of his comeback from injury.
The 28-year-old called an early end to a winless and injury-plagued season last October, but returned with a tie for third in Abu Dhabi last week and carried on where he left off in Dubai.
“I don’t think you could have got better conditions out there,” McIlroy told Sky Sports. “The greens in the morning are perfect and there wasn’t much wind for probably the first 12 or 13 holes. So you needed to take advantage of it today. Thankfully I was able to do that.
“I feel like I left a few out there but at the end of the day, 65, you’re not going to complain about that.”
Asked to compare his mood now and at the end of last season, the former world number one added: “It’s a big difference. Not being able to play to my best last year was something that I was very frustrated with.
“But from then until now, it completely different. I’m really happy with where my body is, where my game is and this is just a progression of what I’ve seen over the past couple of months, which has been nice.
“I didn’t expect to play as well as I did last week, and it’s been nice to continue that into this week. Yeah, I’m ahead of schedule right now, but I don’t mind that. That’s nice. (I) Just have to reassess everything and go from there.”