Rory McIlroy recovers with late birdies at Dubai Desert Classic

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy is looking to join Ernie Els as the only three-time winners of the event
Dubai Desert Classic second-round leaderboard
-10 R Cabrera-Bello (Spa); -9 E Els (SA), T Fisher Jr (SA), D Willett (Eng); -8 C Wood (Eng), J Luiten (Ned), A Sullivan (Eng), T Olesen (Den); -7 A Quiros (Spa), B Rumford (Aus), H Stenson (Swe); Other: -4 R McIlroy (NI)

Defending champion Rory McIlroy threw his ball into a lake in disgust before recovering with four late birdies in round two of the Dubai Desert Classic.

McIlroy, 26, ended the day on four under par after an even-par round of 72, which left him six shots behind leader Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain.

The Northern Irishman made four bogeys on the outward nine and slipped back to level par with a fifth at the 11th.

He salvaged the situation with birdies on the 13th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes.

Cabrera-Bello, the 2012 champion, carded a second consecutive 67, while England's Danny Willett (65) and Ernie Els (67) were tied for second on nine under.

"I struggled in the wind a little bit," McIlroy told the European Tour website.

"I didn't get off to the best of starts again. The middle of the round was tough but I bounced back well and persevered and got something out of the round."

McIlroy bogeyed his opening hole for the second day running and then tossed away his ball after three-putting the fourth on his way to reaching the turn at three over for the day.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello
Cabrera-Bello made six birdies and one bogey in his second round

A three-putt bogey on the 11th then saw McIlroy slip back to level par and outside the projected cut, and it required a testing putt to avoid the same fate on the next before a run of birdies rescued his round.

"I was definitely thinking about (missing the cut), especially over the putt on 12," added McIlroy.

"If I missed that and went one over for the tournament it would have been a long way back.

"I've come back from bigger deficits than this and if I can get off to a faster start tomorrow, you never know."

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