EUROPEAN TOUR

Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney shoots 67 as Andy Sullivan leads the way in Dubai

 

Niall Kearney carded a five under 67 on the Fire Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates to finish six under par at the halfway stage in the Golf in Dubai Championship.

The Dubliner fired in seven birdies but was slightly undone with bogies on the par 4 9th and par 3 11th.

"I hit it in nice and tight today, and I'm looking forward to the last two rounds now," said Kearney, who is tied for 43rd, 11 strokes behind England's Andy Sullivan.

"My distance control was spot on, so I gave myself plenty of chances managed to convert them, and the back feels good after what turned out to be just a flare-up in Scotland."

Gavin Moynihan followed yesterday’s 77 with a disappointing 74 and missed the cut by ten shots.

Andy Sullivan continued his rich vein of form to take a three shot lead.

Sullivan produced a stunning 61 to set the new course record during the first round and hold a two shot overnight lead but when he started on Thursday afternoon, he found himself three shots behind fellow Englishman Ross Fisher.

Fisher has yet to card a bogey in Dubai but he was eventually overtaken by a patient Sullivan, who had birdie chances on every hole on the back nine, to sign for a 66 and 17 under par overall.

Matt Wallace joined Fisher at 14 under in a tie for second, with Scot Craig Howie, German Max Schmitt and Frenchman Antoine Rozner two shots further back to round off the top five.

"It was basically just to stay patient and give ourselves as many chances as possible," Sullivan said.

"It is hard, as much as I had to work hard at staying patient today, when I was three under through nine it didn't feel as good as yesterday.

"You know you are still on the right track. I knew I was swinging it well and I knew if I kept giving myself opportunities I could make a few coming in. If you told me I would shoot 61-66, I would have snapped your hand off.

"It sounds cliche but I just stuck to my process of what I could do. It was the only thing I can control out there and it's been working. I feel like I have the golf ball in some sort of control at the moment. It just feel really comfortable out there."

Sullivan opened up with a birdie but recorded his first dropped shot of the event at the third.

GID 2020 LRFC902464

Andy Sullivan. Photo by Golffile

He picked up the shot at the next to return to 12 under and when he rolled in for a superb eagle at the seventh, he was joint leader with Fisher.

The 2020 English Championship winner could not drain birdie putts at the ninth and tenth to take the outright lead but improved his chances when he dialled his tee shot to four feet at the difficult par three 11th.

However, he misjudged the turning putt to remain at 12 under and could not improve his score with another effort from 12 feet at the next.

His barren birdie run ended at the 13th when he sent his approach to four feet to move ahead on his own at 15 under par.

Sullivan continued his momentum when he landed his tee shot to within six feet at the par three 14th and carded a second successive gain.

The 34-year-old could not hole a lengthy birdie putt at the 15th and lipped out at the next as he continued to create chances but it was at the 17th hole where he produced one of the shots of the day.

A stunning approach to concessional range earned Sullivan a tap-in birdie and increased his lead to three shots at 17 under.

Matching or tying Ernie Els' 36 hole scoring record of 18 under par at the 2004 Heineken Classic was a serious possibility for Sullivan as he headed down the par five last, but his testing birdie putt narrowly missed left edge.

In the morning, Fisher - starting on the back nine - moved into double figures after a birdie at the 12th before moving into joint leadership with Sullivan with another gain at the 15th.

Howie made his ascent up the leaderboard after trading a birdie at the second with a bogey at the fourth thanks to hat-trick of gains from the fifth.

The Scot momentarily held a two shot lead after continuing his birdie trail at the eighth and ninth but Fisher reduced the gap with a gain at the 18th and found himself at the top on his own when Howie started his back nine with bogey-bogey.

Fisher moved to 13 under when picking up another shot at the first and increased his advantage to three strokes as he rolled in his fifth birdie of the round.

The 2010 Ryder Cup star looked to extend the lead at the ninth as he dialled his approach to seven feet, but he lipped out the birdie putt to set the initial target at 14 under par.

Wallace had an early setback at the fifth after going wide off the tee but bounced back in style with an eagle on the seventh and a birdie at the ninth to reach the turn at 11 under.

A fine approach to four feet at the 12th secured another gain before arrowing into three feet at the par three 14th to reach 13 under.

The four time European Tour winner reached the last in two but narrowly missed his eagle effort and settled for a five under 67 to sit alongside Fisher.

Steven Brown produced the round of the day with a flawless 63 to sit in a tie for seventh at 11 under in the company of Italian pair Renato Paratore and Lorenzo Scalise, Danish duo Thorbjørn Olesen and John Axelsen and Swede Oscar Lengden.

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