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It's fair to say that conditions at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship were rather difficult. At the start of the second round on Friday, the cut mark was standing at one-under-par; when play finished, it's expected to be three-over-par, a whole four shot increase.
One of the many players who struggled on the Yas Links layout was Rory McIlroy, whose three-over 76 should just see him into the weekend. However, there are still a number of players who need to return on Saturday morning to complete their second rounds.
After a crucial birdie at the last, the four-time Major champion was visibly tired and possibly slightly annoyed, with McIlroy shouting up to the gallery: "I’ve never been so glad to get off the golf course."
Gusts between 20-30mph 💨A windy day in the desert.#ADGolfChamps | #RolexSeries pic.twitter.com/bKGiSXrxlFJanuary 21, 2022
Another player who struggled in his second round was Robert MacIntyre, a six-over-par 78 also putting him bang on the cut mark. The round wasn't the only bit of bad fortune that he experienced while battling the conditions, revealing to Iona Stephen during an on-course interview that he had been "hit by a bin bag" while out on the course.
“I’ve never played a golf course that I’ve been hit by a bin bag on before", said the 25-year-old. "We’ve just got to get on with this and try our best. These are the toughest conditions I’ve played in since probably Royal Portrush, where I got two holes in The Open like this. I think I’ve played three holes where it’s not been off my right side; for me, being a left-hander, that’s the hardest wind."
There was also disappointment for Tyrrell Hatton, who endured a painful day which included a bogey-double bogey finish. After a two-over-par front nine, he produced an expletive outburst that the cameras managed to pick up.
Standing in the middle of the 12th fairway, the four-time Rolex Series event winner had 188 yards to the pin. However, on his backswing the wind gusted up, causing his shot to go well left and Hatton to come out with "back off it! f***ing gusts! f**k you!"
It wasn't just the players who were struggling with the conditions, with green staff forced to take action on the par-4 14th when massive amounts of sand were blown onto the putting surface.
These setbacks, however, didn't seem to affect Ian Poulter, who currently sits one shot back of leader, Scott Jamieson. Admitting to "backing off a couple putts" during his level-par round of 72, Poulter went on to say "I've got to be honest, you look at the forecast and you felt the wind as strong as it was, you'd have thought the ball would be moving but I didn't have any balls moving on the green. So it was a surprise, but you just had to hang in there".
Another player who sits alongside Poulter near the top of the leaderboard is Viktor Hovland, with the young Norwegian looking to claim his first Rolex Series event title. "It was a tough day today", he said. "Obviously I would have liked to have made a couple more putts and I think I could have shot under par, but it was really difficult when it was blowing as much as it is.
"It's pretty cliché but you need patience. You might be able to pick up a birdie here and there but on a day like today it's limited how many chances you're going to get. It's all about kind of being risk averse and missing on the right side and picking your spots and just telling yourself that it's okay to be 50 feet away on this hole. You just kind of have to manage that as the day goes on."
Fellow Ryder Cup player, Shane Lowry, someone who is known to excel in windy conditions, also gave his thoughts on the weather. "I know I've got this reputation as someone who thrives in these conditions, but let me say straight away that I don't enjoy them - I just know how to play them," said the former Champion Golfer of the Year.
"I played OK, no better than that. I feel like I didn't really have my A-game in the wind today that I normally would. I heard some of the commentators were saying this was a 'Shane Lowry day'. But I don't love it. Because it's in the wind, I think about it a lot less and I just hit the shots that I see. That's what makes me so good in the wind I think. I just kind of play with a lot of feel."
Heading into the weekend, it's Scotland's Scott Jamieson who leads by one from a star-studded pack. However, with the wind expected to be up for this weekend, maybe not to the extent of the second round, it's going to make for enthralling viewing on the Saturday and Sunday.
Matt studied Sports Journalism at Southampton Solent University, graduating in 2019. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly and the PGA, he covers all aspects of the game, from Tour news to equipment testing and buyers’ guides. Taking up the game at the age of six, Matt currently holds a handicap of 3 and despite not having a hole in one…yet, he has had two albatrosses. His favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.