DUBAI (Reuters) - Alex Noren’s hopes of reining in fellow Swede Henrik Stenson at the top the European money-list were dulled by two bogeys in the last four holes on the second day of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on Friday.
In-form Noren, who produced a staggering come-from-behind victory on the final day to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa last weekend, had earlier birdied holes one, seven, eight and 10 to propel himself up the leaderboard towards the top-two finish he needs to have a chance of usurping his compatriot as top earner.
Noren fell to four-under overall, five shots off the halfway lead shared by Sergio Garcia and Francesco Molinari, with overnight leader Lee Westwood a further shot behind.
Stenson rallied from a level-par first day to match Noren’s three-under-par round, although the money-list leader had to contend with more crowd interaction than he would have expected -- a wayward tee-shot at 13 struck a spectator, while his ball was handled by another at hole two.
“I know it’s going to be a long weekend and they are going to keep on pushing me. So I‘m just trying to do my best,” said Stenson, whose other main rival for the Race to Dubai title, England’s Danny Willett, sits level with him on three-under for the tournament.
World number two Rory McIlroy, who came into the tournament with an outside chance of claiming the money-list crown but whose struggles on day one all-but-ended his title ambitions, rebounded with a four-under-par round on Friday to sit eight shots off the lead.
Sharing the halfway lead are Spaniard Garcia and Italy’s Molinari, who each fired six birdies and a bogey on their way to rounds of 67.
The former might have claimed top spot for himself, but for a birdie putt on the final green which came up agonizingly short.
Instead, both will be ruing one lapse in concentration: Molinari missing a short par putt on 10, while Garcia planted his 12th tee shot into the trees.
“It’s probably one of the only tee shots with the driver that I didn’t fully commit it, and it showed and I pulled it way left,” said Garcia.
Molinari said it took effort to combat the heat, which is around 30 degrees Celsius at this time of year in Dubai.
“It takes a lot of energy to stay focused for four hours, four hours 15, whatever it was. It shouldn’t happen (the missed putt) but it can happen,” he said.
Another left to ponder one moment of madness was England’s Westwood, who was level with the leading duo coming into the final hole but bogeyed after finding the water with his approach shot.
“Somebody clicked a camera on the right-hand side, put me off,” Westwood explained to reporters.
Four players are two shots behind the leaders on seven-under, including England’s Tyrrell Hatton - who carded eight birdies and two bogeys on Friday -- and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, who tore up the end of the course with a birdie and two eagles on the final five holes.
“I think I played better golf yesterday but just took advantage of those last five holes, which I didn’t do yesterday and therefore the score is a little better,” Wiesberger told reporters.
Editing by Toby Davis