x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 November 2017

Rory McIlroy in the pink at Dubai Desert Classic halfway stage

World No 1 Rory McIlroy holds a one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Rory McIlroy's stunning form in the UAE continued during a second round 64 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Stringer / EPA
Rory McIlroy's stunning form in the UAE continued during a second round 64 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Stringer / EPA

In the past, Marc Warren might have had an agitated sleep before going out in the final pairing of a tournament alongside the world No 1’s golfer.

Friday night will surely bring no such worries, though. Even though his sparkling form around the Majlis means he will tee it up alongside Rory McIlroy on Saturday morning in round three of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Not that he is guaranteed uninterrupted slumber. It is just that the distractions are a little different these days, since two-year-old son Archie arrived on the scene.

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That much was clear when the Scotsman gave a television interview after his 7-under par 65 in the second round, which took him to 13-under for the tournament.

Father Marc was first assailed by his son wielding a yellow and red plastic putter in his face, then had his shades pinched by the same culprit. As distractions go, they do not come much better.

“Since the wee man has come along the past few years have been pretty strong for me,” said Warren, who finished second at the Qatar Masters last weekend.

“No matter how your day has gone, he is generally quite happy to see me. It helps me to totally forget about golf, as opposed to thinking about it at nighttime.”

Because the thought of trying to keep pace with McIlroy, who starts the day a shot ahead of Warren at 14-under, in this form would be enough to unnerve anyone.

All of the chasing pack have their work cut out, even though it includes enviable pedigree in the form of former US Open winner Graeme McDowell at 12-under, and former world No 1 Lee Westwood a further shot back.

“This golf course really sets up well for long hitters, and Rory is one of those, but everybody is beatable,” said Westwood, who reached 11-under with a second round 68.

McIlroy might not win the coffee pot trophy on Saturday evening. Stranger things have happened. Evidence: Martin Kaymer and the curious case of the disappearing 10-stroke lead in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago.

However, he did look intimidatingly strong in round two. Even in the hot lava shirt and cap combo, which he had opted for in observation of Pink Friday.

All 18 flags were pink, each of the players wore ribbons of that colour somewhere on their person, while most wore shirts of some hue or other of pink, in support of Breast Cancer Arabia.

“When they sent me this hat to wear, I was a little apprehensive about it, but I like it,” McIlroy said. “Maybe I should wear it more often.”

He hardly needs the luminous get-up to get noticed. When he plays like this, he is eye-catching enough. He is 117-under for his past 28 rounds on the European Tour.

Only when a player is reaching quite such extraordinary heights can they justifiably be disappointed with finishing runner up on their previous three outings.

“With how I’m playing, I want to take advantage of that and I know I’m playing well enough to win,” the Northern Irishman said.

“So there’s no point in being satisfied with second, when you know you are playing well enough to lift trophies.”

McIlroy has been peerless over the recent past, having won four major titles in as many years.

But he has not been too busy to notice the steady rise of Warren, who could move into the 30s in the world rankings with a good finish here.

“Marc was on the European Tour at the same time we were both coming up in 2008,” McIlroy said.

“He seems like he’s become a lot more consistent. He’s obviously had wins but there’s been times when he has struggled a little bit, so it’s good to see he is playing well.”

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