War­ren set for show­down with Wil­lett fol­low­ing his best round in six months

The Herald - Herald Sport - - GOLF - BERNIE MCGUIRE

SCOTS Marc War­ren and Rus­sell Knox shared hon­ours with the low­est rounds on a wet and test­ing sec­ond day of the Dubai Duty Free Ir­ish Open at the K Club.

War­ren, who shares the lead with Masters cham­pion Danny Wil­lett, faces a show­down today with the English­man af­ter record­ing his best round in six months, a siz­zling six un­der par 66, to leave him tied on eight un­der par with the hero of Au­gusta Na­tional.

War­ren topped off his round with a pair of birdies but there was a de­gree of for­tune about the first of those, the Scot just man­ag­ing to clear the wa­ter guard­ing the green at his penul­ti­mate hole be­fore chip­ping in.

Wil­lett had moved to nine un­der with birdies at his 13th and 14th but gave a shot back in bo­gey­ing his 16th.

A stroke fur­ther back is the tour­na­ment host Rory McIl­roy, who added a round of 70 to move to seven un­der par which left him two shots clear of Eng­land’s Matthew South­gate (69).

And while McIl­roy is des­per­ate for his first win of the year, he was full of praise for War­ren.

“Marc’s a great player and his 66 is a great score,” said McIl­roy. “I’ve al­ways thought he is one of the play­ers to look at and he’s won at least a cou­ple of times on Tour. He swings it so well that you are maybe sur­prised he hasn’t won more.”

Knox, who earns his liv­ing on the PGA Tour, mus­cled his way back into the top 10 by match­ing War­ren’s 66 for three un­der par and his round was aided by a bor­rowed driver.

The Scot cracked the face of his driver on Thurs­day but bor­rowed one from fel­low Jack­sonville res­i­dent David Ling­merth.

“David came to the res­cue as he had a back-up one and while it took a lit­tle ad­just­ment on the range, all in all it felt good and hope­fully it will serve me well over the week­end. I’ve now got three new drivers on the way from Cleve­land that ar­rive in time for next week’s BMW PGA Cham­pi­onship at Went­worth.”

Tied with Knox is Richie Ram­say who added a 71 to his open­ing 70 while Stephen Gal­lacher, with a pair of 71s, is just a shot fur­ther back.

War­ren’s ef­fort is now only the sec­ond oc­ca­sion in 10 events this year the Scot has man­aged to play all four rounds for a sec­ond event in suc­ces­sion af­ter ar­riv­ing in Ire­land hav­ing missed six of nine cuts this year.

Also War­ren is yet to record a top 10 fin­ish since fin­ish­ing fourth in last July’s Aberdeen As­set Man­age­ment Scot­tish Open.

“I’ve felt, es­pe­cially in my last three events, one in Spain and then the two in China, I was close to some de­cent form,” said War­ren. “But the sched­ule this year feels as if it’s been stop and start a lot.

“I’m not top 50 in the world and as such I’ve not got into the events in Amer­ica to fill in some down­time we have on the Euro­pean Tour. So I do feel more rusty than any­thing else.

“And when I have played the cuts I’ve made haven’t been that great and the cuts I’ve missed haven’t been too bad.

“You’re go­ing to go through spells like that over the course of a sea­son or over the course of two or three sea­sons, so it’s just a mat­ter of try­ing to stay pa­tient as you pos­si­bly can.”

“It’s been a pretty frus­trat­ing start to the year re­sults-wise as you are go­ing to try to fo­cus on do­ing the right things and what you can con­trol as op­posed to what’s out of your con­trol like fin­ishes and po­si­tions,” he added.

Pic­ture: Getty

MAK­ING HIS MARC: ‘He swings it so well you are maybe sur­prised he hasn’t won more’ said Rory McIl­roy of Scot War­ren af­ter his round of 66.

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