Flying Finishes Raise Prospect Of Reed & McIlroy Going Head-To-Head In Dubai
After pre-tournament spat Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy topped the leaderboard after flying first round finishes
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Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed both seem determined to face-off at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic after both produced flying finishes to their first rounds at Emirates Golf Club.
Long delays due to unusual heavy rain in Dubai meant that most of the field had to return on Friday morning to complete their first rounds, and when they did it was the main protagonists of the pre-tournament drama who made their moves.
Reed stuck in a 15-foot putt for an eagle on 18 to move to six under for the tournament, while McIlroy went even better to finish birdie-eagle-birdie in a lively 45 minutes he spent completing his round.
McIlroy needed just seven shots on Friday to set the golfing world on fire at the mouth-watering prospect of the Northern Irishman and his new nemesis Reed possibly being paired together at the weekend.
A pretty wild 45 minutes 🤯Rory finishes his opening round birdie-eagle-birdie to take the lead.#HeroDDC | #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/xSKIa2sifLJanuary 27, 2023
There’s still a long way to, but after the now infamous “teegate” affair when Reed threw a tee peg at McIlroy after being blanked by him on the driving range, everyone in golf, and the wider sporting world, wants the two to go head-to-head in Dubai.
Reed called world number one McIlroy an "immature little child" for ignoring him, while McIlroy questioned the American’s grasp on reality for expecting a handshake after being served with a subpoena on Christmas Eve.
The two already had a history after a magical Ryder Cup showdown and a head-to-head at the Masters, but Reed's defection to LIV Golf and subsequent legal proceedings against the PGA Tour saw the tension build up even more.
A pre-tournament meeting gone sour went viral and now all eyes will be on these two men whenever they're in the same tournament.
Coming at the very same event as that infamous tee hurl though would be tremendous viewing for all concerned and everyone will be monitoring the second round scores closely to see if the two can remain at the top of the standings.
It would be box office viewing if Reed and McIlroy would be placed in the same group - everyone would be watching for the pre-round handshake that's for sure!
Neither man mentioned the other in their immediate post-round interviews, and neither seemed to acknowledge the other when in close proximity on the practice green, with McIlroy just very pleased with his round as he felt rusty in his opening round of the year.
"I struggled out there most of yesterday," McIlroy said. "I thought I did well to be under par by the end of the day. I fought back after some very sloppy rusty golf over the first sort of 14 holes.
"And then today I came out and I don't really know if anything clicked because I don't think I hit enough shots to know, but it was definitely needed.
"I would have been happy with anything around 70 the way I played, and then to come in and shoot 66 is quite the bonus."
Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website. Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.
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