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Fleetwood shines as McIlroy slides

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 22/11/2019 skysports.com
a man holding a baseball bat: Tommy Fleetwood © Getty Tommy Fleetwood

Tommy Fleetwood took control of the Race to Dubai as Mike Lorenzo-Vera set a record-equalling pace at the halfway stage of the DP World Tour Championship.

Lorenzo-Vera added a 69 to his opening 63 to open up a three-shot lead over Fleetwood and Jon Rahm on 12 under, matching the best 36-hole score at the event, but Rory McIlroy endured a difficult day around the Earth Course and slipped seven strokes behind the leader after an error-strewn 74.

Fleetwood being in a tie-for second took him top of the projected final Race to Dubai standings ahead of long-time leader Bernd Wiesberger, who kept a bogey off his card but made only one birdie and 17 pars in a 71 he described as "flat".

But the big names are all looking upwards at Lorenzo-Vera, who continued to produce some outstanding golf despite suffering with a lung infection as he powered into a clear lead in pursuit of his maiden European Tour victory, although he did open the door for the chasing pack with a couple of late mistakes.

Tommy Fleetwood © Getty Tommy Fleetwood

The charismatic Frenchman showed no signs of being overwhelmed at partnering McIlroy in the final pairing of the day as he birdied the opening two holes, and he responded to a bogey at the fifth with back-to-back birdies at seven and eight to turn in 33 for the second day running.

The 34-year-old then cruised to 14 under when he birdied 13 and chipped in for another at 14, but he began to falter in the setting sun as he bogeyed the 15th and then three-putted to final green from 25 feet - leaving his tentative six-foot par putt short as his five-stroke lead was whittled down to three.

Fleetwood needs a minimum of a top-two finish to have any chance of pipping Wiesberger to the Race to Dubai crown, and the 2017 European No 1 kept his hopes alive as he mixed seven birdies with three bogeys in a 68 which lifted him six shots ahead of the Austrian.

a man wearing a hat: Rory McIlroy © Getty Rory McIlroy

Last week's Nedbank Challenge winner birdied the first before dropping shots at the third and fourth, but he got back on track with three birdies over the next four holes before following a steady run of pars with more gains at the 13th and 14th.

Fleetwood lipped out from six feet for par at the next, but he got the shot back at the last to close on nine under along with Ryder Cup team-mate Rahm, who was one over for the day until he birdied 14 and 16 before capping a battling 69 with a brilliant eagle at the last.

Tom Lewis is two shots further back heading into the weekend, while McIlroy was left to reflect on a series of mistakes, particularly at the par-threes, as he closed on six under which could have been worse had he not scrambled a par at the last after finding water off the tee.

The free-flowing form of his day-one 64 was only rarely evident as he parred the first five holes and then rinsed his tee-shot to the short sixth, a mistake which led to a double-bogey five.

Mike Lorenzo-Vera © Getty Mike Lorenzo-Vera

McIlroy hit back with his first birdie of the round at the next, but he had to dig deep to scramble a par at the ninth before he leaked another shot at the 10th and fluffed a chip after pulling his tee-shot into the left rough at the short 13th, where he did well to limit the damage to a bogey-four.

The world No 2 came within a whisker of chipping in for eagle at the next as he clawed one shot back, but his hopes of matching his spectacular first-round eagle at the 18th vanished when he blocked his drive into the creek on the right and, after drilling a towering fairway-wood onto the front of the green, he safely two-putted from 40 feet to stay at six under.

Justin Rose is eight off the lead after a mixed-bag of a 70 which featured only six pars, while pars were not a problem for Wiesberger as he carded 17 of them, his lone birdie coming at the 11th as he closed on three under par and in a tie for 13th place.

Related: The most stunning golf victories of all time [Read Sport]

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