x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Squeeze is just the tonic to get Rory McIlroy in healthy position

Northern Irishman in tie at the top of the leaderboard in DP World Tour Championship.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland lines up his putt on the 18th green.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland lines up his putt on the 18th green.

DUBAI // He is the world's best golfer. He has won both the money lists that matter, has yet to be on the losing team in a Ryder Cup, and already has two major trophies to his name, despite being just 23 years old.

And when he is feeling a little under the weather, he has Caroline Wozniacki on hand to play nurse. Rory McIlroy must be wondering where it all went wrong.

The Northern Irishman will head towards the home straight in his lap of honour in the Race to Dubai today with another victory within reach, in the season's climax.

He shares in a three-way lead in the DP World Tour Championship with Luke Donald, last year's European Tour winner, and Marc Warren, the less-heralded Scotsman.

After his second-round 67 yesterday, McIlroy revealed he had needed a little help from his celebrated tennis-playing girlfriend to beat a nagging illness to reach this position.

"Caroline made me a glass of lemon juice, squeezed about five lemons into a glass," the world No 1 said, after revealing he has been struggling to shake off a head cold this week.

"I took that then had some sort of vitamin and mineral drink, too. That made me feel a little better.

"I felt much better this morning and was nearly 100 per cent around there on the golf course, it's just when you get in I start to get a sore head."

Even with a clean bill of health from here on in, Team Wozilroy still have some significant obstacles to hurdle if their man is to triumph at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

After a second day of characteristically understated excellence, Donald reached 11-under par with a blemish-free round of 68.

McIlroy has already commented this week of his excitement at the prospect of a duel with the world No 2 for this Dubai crown.

"It's good to see both of us up there and we are both obviously playing well at the minute," McIlroy said of a potential head-to-head with Donald for the title tomorrow.

"It would be great if we were able to go up against each other coming down the back nine on Sunday."

One unconscious swish of the putter meant Warren will split the world's top two players in today's third round.

Because he holed out first at the 18th - with only a short putt to finish up - he was officially considered to be in the clubhouse before Donald, his playing partner, with whom he shares an aggregate score.

As such, the Scotsman would go out the later of the two, meaning he will face the extra attention of being in a two-ball with McIlroy today.

"It was nice to be the Scot in that pack with the Englishman and the Northern Irishman," Warren said after carding 67 to give him a halfway total of 133.

"It's a high-quality leader board and it doesn't get any better anywhere in the world.

"You can look at it and enjoy it, and try to force your way to the top of it.

"If I make a bogey or a birdie it's down to me, it is not because of who else is on the leader board."

Louis Oosthuizen, the former British Open champion, is poised threateningly one shot back, alongside his in-form South African compatriot Branden Grace, at 10-under par.

Now ranked No 6 in the world rankings, Oosthuizen said he feels a return to his major-winning form is within reach ahead of the closing two rounds here.

"I feel like I'm pretty close to [top form]," he said. "I'm hitting a lot of greens, giving myself a lot of opportunities for birdies.

"These greens are pretty quick, which I like, and it seemed like I have been putting pretty well the last two days."

pradley@thenational.ae