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