McIlroy birdies 18, up by one in Dubai

Rory McIlroy sank a five-foot birdie putt on the final hole to salvage a 2-under-par 70 for a one-stroke lead over 23-year-old American Brooks Koepka after two rounds of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club.

McIlroy, who opened with a 63, limped toward the clubhouse with bogeys on the 13th and 16th holes before righting the ship at No. 18.

“Making a few birdies on the front nine and turning two under par was a good effort, especially as the wind started to get up,” said McIlroy, who won the Australian Open and tied for second in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in his last two starts. ” … It was nice to birdie the last and at least give myself a one shot lead going into tomorrow.

“I will just go back tonight and regroup and realize that I am still leading the tournament. I hit a couple of loose drives which I haven’t done the last couple of weeks but I still feel like I’m playing well enough to go and win the tournament.

“I have led from the front quite well in tournaments that I have won.”

Koepka, who played at Florida State and has won four times on the European Challenge Tour, birdied the first three holes and posted a bogey-free 65.

Tiger Woods, after opening with a bogey-free 68, struggled to a 73 that included only two birdies and was tied for 44th, eight shots back. He again struggled off the tee, but couldn’t save himself with the putter this time, taking 31 putts after needing only 25 in the first round.

Henrik Stenson shot 67 and was tied for sixth, while Ernie Els had a 70, but missed the cut by two strokes after opening with a 74.

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