Donaldson remains ahead in Dubai; India’s Shubhankar Sharma charges up the leaderboard
Dubai, January 26: Jamie Donaldson signed for a three under 69 to maintain his one-shot lead and set the clubhouse target at 13 under par on a fog-delayed Friday at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The Welshman fired a blistering 62 on day one and while he could not quite hit those heights again at Emirates Golf Club, he continues to lead a field that has just 11 players over par.
Meanwhile, India’s Shubhankar Sharma, who is sponsored by Take Solutions, DLF and Indorama Ventures Plc., scorched the course with five birdies on his front nine on 10th, 11th, 13th, 15th and 17th. He dropped a stroke on the 12th and second hole but recovered with a birdie on the third to close the day at seven-under -par before play was suspended with five holes to play. “I hit it pretty well today, much better than the opening round and made some decent putts. Hopefully, I can come out in the morning and make a few more birdies and get closer to the lead,” said Shubhankar.
“I played nicely. Drove the ball well. Iron play was good. Took my chances when I was close enough to do so. Hit a lot of really good putts that didn’t go in, whereas yesterday they all went in, but 69 following a 62 is a solid score,” said Donaldson.
“It can always be better, can’t it, but only one bogey. I wanted to try to go flag hunting a little bit which maybe I shouldn’t have done, but happy with how I played.
“I don’t know where it will be at the end of the day, but I’m just concentrating on me and concentrating on putting that ball in those small fairways. You know, taking chances from there. It’s a tricky golf course that you’ve got to manage your way around well. I did that well today again, as I did yesterday.”
China’s Li Haotong heads up the chasing pack at 12 under par after consecutive rounds of 66. South African Branden Grace is one shot further back alongside Alexander Björk of Sweden, who is one of 66 players who will return at 7.30 am on Saturday to complete the second round following a two hour and 50-minute delay due to morning fog.
Miguel Ángel Jiménez rolled back the years with a round of 68 that included six birdies and one bogey, to take the 54-year-old 21-time European Tour winner to ten under par, alongside South African Thomas Aiken and four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, who will complete his remaining seven holes on Saturday morning.
“I hit very nice, solid, controlled the ball. That’s what you need to do, and I enjoyed it very much. It’s a nice golf course. I won here in 2010, and it’s a golf course where I feel like I can defend myself with my game, and here we are,” said Jiménez.
“I still like to play on The European Tour. Obviously now 90 percent of the tournaments I play on the Champions Tour, but I still love to come here to some tournaments. The golf course, it’s a golf course that I can defend myself and play and be competitive. That’s what I want to, and see another new generation of guys coming up. I see a lot of faces I don’t know here. That’s good.”
“I’m in a good position. It was hard waiting all day to go out there. I got off to a really good start, three under through five, and then made my first bogey of the week on the eighth, which was a bad tee shot. I nearly got away with a par but dropped shot,” said Rory.
“But it was nice to get a shot back there on 10 at the end of the round. I maybe didn’t putt quite as well as I did yesterday. But as I say, I drove the ball a bit better and gave myself opportunities to score. I feel like I can put the ball on the fairway for the last few holes in the morning and create some more chances and as I said, try to get myself to the top of the leaderboard.”
Six players are currently tied for eighth place at nine under, while England’s Matthew Southgate is part of a group of 15 players one shot further back after he made the second hole-in-one of the season with a nine iron from 154 yards on the seventh, en route to a round of 68.
“It was just a really good yardage for me. I was aiming at the right lip of the back right bunker and where the wind was, it was just like a perfect target,” said a beaming Southgate.
“Just hit it absolutely perfect then it just started turning into the flag and I knew it had to be good. In the air, I was saying, ‘be the number, be the number’, and when it pitched it was right in line with the flag, a couple of yards short. As soon as it pitched, I was like, ‘get in’, and then it just kissed the flag and went in.
“It’s my first (hole in one) on Tour. I was chuffed. It was really good. I’ve had a lot just playing with friends and as an amateur but never on the Tour so, seven years waiting, off to a good start this year with one.”