Tag Archives: mistakes

Rory McIlroy solid start in Texas Open 2013

He's not out of the woods yet! McIlroy fails to hit top form but posts solid start in Texas in his final preparation ahead of The Masters

, including a
second major at the US PGA Championship.

Lost ball: Rory McIlroy, looking in the woods for a wayward shot, has had just one top-10 finish in 2013

Lost ball: Rory McIlroy, looking in the woods for a wayward shot, has had just one top-10 finish in 2013

Back in form McIlroy hits his second shot on the 14th in the first round of the Valero Texas Open today

Back in form McIlroy hits his second shot on the 14th in the first round of the Valero Texas Open today

But with caddie JP Fitzgerald advising him that he needed more competitive rounds under his belt, McIlroy travelled to San Antonio and carded an opening level-par 72 to lie five shots behind Matt Bettencourt, who carded a 67 to overtake long-time clubhouse leaders Padraig Harrington and Billy Horschel.

Starting from the 10th on the difficult Oaks Course – the fourth most difficult on the PGA Tour last year – McIlroy opened with four pars before picking up a birdie on the par-five 14th and another on the short par-four 17th.

However, a bogey on the 18th after finding the water was the first of three in succession which dropped him back to one over par, not what the world No 2 was looking for after speaking of the need to cut out 'silly mistakes' in his rounds.

The 23-year-old stopped the rot with pars at the third and fourth and then birdied the next two holes after pitching to five feet each time, but carded his fourth bogey of the day on the ninth.

Comeback: McIlroy, chipping onto the 18th green, took part in the Texas Open in a bid to reverse his poor form

Comeback: McIlroy, chipping onto the 18th green, took part in the Texas Open in a bid to reverse his poor form

THE FULL LEADERBOARD

The PGA Tour is back in San Antonio this week for the Texas Open, where Rory McIlroy will be hoping to fine-tune his game ahead of the Masters.

Ben Curtis took the title last year and you can keep track of all the latest scores right here.

Three-time major winner Harrington had
also bogeyed his final hole, the 18th; the only blemish on his card
caused by three putts from 35ft.

The 41-year-old won the Open Championship in 2007, successfully defended
it the following year and then won the US PGA Championship a few weeks
later, but has not tasted victory on one of the major tours since – his
last win came on the Asian Tour in 2010.

Harrington admitted he had enjoyed his fair share of good luck in cold
and blustery conditions, with his only bogey caused by three-putting the
18th.

'It was cold and that really does affect the ball,' the Dubliner told
reporters. 'I didn't have a great ball-striking round but my misses were
either in the right places or I got slightly fortunate and then got up
and down.

'I'm not walking away from this round thinking “wow, I hit a number of
pure golf shots”, or anything like that. It was more mental fortitude
than ball striking.

Right alongside: McIlroy's playing partner, 19-year-old Jordan Spieth, went round in one under par

Right alongside: McIlroy's playing partner, 19-year-old Jordan Spieth, went round in one under par

'This morning, early on, it was a battle of survival. Last week back in
Ireland it was snowing and I didn't feel this cold. There was a feeling
of “let's just hang in there and stay in the tournament”. Sometimes that
lets you play a little bit more within yourself.'

Anyone winning this week will have to defy the odds if they want to also claim a Green Jacket at the Masters, however.

Only two players have won the week prior to the Masters and then gone on
to win in Augusta; Sandy Lyle in the Greater Greensboro Open in 1988
and Phil Mickelson in the BellSouth Classic in 2006.

Getting to grips: McIlroy, teeing off at the second hole today, needed to get used to his new Nike equipment

Getting to grips: McIlroy, teeing off at the second hole today, needed to get used to his new Nike equipment

Gary Neville: Why both Chelsea and Manchester United would accept a 1-0 win at the Bridge

Why both Chelsea and Manchester United would accept a 1-0 win at the Bridge

|

UPDATED:

23:48 GMT, 27 October 2012

I know what both Sir Alex Ferguson and
Roberto Di Matteo would like most from this top-of-the table
fixture: a 1-0 win. In my years as a Manchester United player, people
would talk to me about the epic 5-3 or 8-2 victories. But the truth is,
exhilarating as those games were, it is those 1-0 wins that mean the
most. That’s when the whole team come off the pitch feeling as though
they’ve done their job.

The defenders are happy they kept a
clean sheet; the strikers are happy because someone has scored; and the
team are happy because the points are secured. One-nil wins are the sign
of a title-winning side, like when Arsenal came to Old Trafford in 1998
and won the title or when Manchester United went to Newcastle in 1996.
Get as many of those little 1-0 boys in the bag as you can and you’ll
have a decent chance come April and May.

But the truth is, I’m not expecting
that. In fact, I would be amazed if there weren’t goals, given the way
both teams are playing.

Six of the best: Javier Hernandez makes it 3-3 at Chelsea last season and another high-scoring game is on the cards

Six of the best: Javier Hernandez makes it 3-3 at Chelsea last season and another high-scoring game is on the cards

Chelsea have been much more open in
the past 18 months — other than the last few months of last season, when
they reverted to type — than previously. All the United-Chelsea games I
played in felt like cagey, dogged affairs. But when Andre Villas-Boas
brought Chelsea to Old Trafford last season and lost 3-1 — though
Chelsea could have scored more — and then drew the return 3-3, it was as
though the game had turned into an attacking exhibition, each side
trading punches, with one attack followed by a counter-attack.

On top of that, United are making far
too many defensive mistakes and I would say only at Newcastle have they
shown the levels of concentration and intensity that would be required
if they were to win back the League title. Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand,
Jonny Evans and Rafael are all good defenders and I know the mistakes
will be doing their heads in.

The United midfield have also been
criticised for not protecting them but, in fact, when you break down the
passing statistics, it reveals something different. There have been 792
passes completed in United’s defensive third by opposition teams —
that’s the fewest of any other team in the top flight. Chelsea have the
next best record, with only 893 passes being competed in their defensive
third.

On a roll: United completed a comeback victory against Braga in midweek and will be chasing a rare result in west London

On a roll: United completed a comeback victory against Braga in midweek and will be chasing a rare result in west London

That suggests that United’s midfield
are doing something right in stopping the opposition from playing,
meaning the spotlight is on the back four to defend properly,
which means getting tight, holding their line and defending one-on-one.
Because Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata will create space for
themselves and, with Fernando Torres making runs and Ramires coming from
deeper, United’s back four will have to be at their best to stay
compact.

For me, that will be the key to the game and will provide a
clue for the season. If the big question-mark for United has been their
defending, the positives they can take are that in coming from behind in
so many games — they have gone on to win having conceded six times this
season — they have shown they have great attacking power, spirit and
mentality. If they start defending properly, they will finish above Chelsea. But if they don’t, I doubt they’ll win the league.

More from Gary Neville…

Gary Neville: AVB deserves a second chance… good managers – and some great ones – have failed before
20/10/12

Gary Neville: Rooney is in the same mould as Robson, Adams and Keane
06/10/12

Gary Neville: A lack of belief is all that separates the London rivals
29/09/12

Gary Neville: I relish our rivalry, but it's never an excuse to go beyond bounds of decency
22/09/12

Gary Neville: Scholes is simply the best English player of his generation
15/09/12

Gary Neville: Will Rodgers really be able to curb his enthusiasm
25/08/12

Gary Neville: Like the Olympics, football has to show its humanity
18/08/12

Gary Neville: Italy are not very Italian, they play with rhythm and flair
23/06/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

It won’t be easy. Stamford
Bridge has always been the hardest place for United to go. It is the
only ground at which they have played more than once since the Premier
League began and lost there more times than they have won. But despite
Chelsea’s good start, I think there are more question-marks hanging over
them than United.

Can David Luiz be a defender in a
Premier League title-winning team, especially if John Terry is missing
at times Is Fernando Torres, who has never won a league championship in
his life, a striker who can lead a team to the title Is having Torres
and Daniel Sturridge — a talent but unproven as a centre-forward —
enough depth in the squad, given that United have Wayne Rooney, Robin
van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, while Manchester City
can call upon Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Mario
Balotelli

And though this might come from my
English prejudices, will Mata, Hazard and Oscar get through the slog of
this less pleasant part of the season

Superb start: But how will Eden Hazard fare in the winter

Superb start: But how will Eden Hazard fare in the winter

Think David Silva last year, who
started brilliantly but struggled later on. The talent of the Chelsea
trio isn’t in doubt. The question, especially for newcomers to England,
Hazard and Oscar, is whether they can keep producing after they’ve been
through five games in two weeks on heavy pitches at Christmas and the
matches keep coming

None of that will be fully revealed today. But we might get a better idea as to who is most likely to be able to answer those questions as we move into the next phase of the season.

Falling seven points behind would leave Manchester United an awful lot of work to do. But only being one point ahead will probably feel a little unnerving for Chelsea.

Ajax still lovely on the eye

There is a lot of talk about systems in football and, while Roberto Mancini is right that a good player should be able to fit into any formation, there is one team for whom you know the tactics will essentially never change. And that was the team Manchester City came up against on Wednesday night, Ajax.

For 40 years now, from Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff through to Louis van Gaal and now Frank De Boer, Ajax have been keeping faith with the way they play. Their philosophy has been so successful that Cruyff and Van Gaal laid the foundations for Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team who have dominated football these past four years.

Glorious to watch: The latest batch from the prodigious Ajax production line were a joy on Wednesday

Glorious to watch: The latest batch from the prodigious Ajax production line were a joy on Wednesday

What you saw on Wednesday was a team, seven of whom were raised by their academy, with a clear view of how to play the game. It takes decades to establish the reputation Ajax have, so in some ways it was a victory for the football purist.

Ajax might not win the Champions League these days but their legacy is all around us.

I'm not a fan of zonal marking

Zonal marking at set-pieces is something I don’t like to see and I drew attention to it again after Manchester City’s defeat. It’s not that it can’t work, it’s just that I think it’s much harder to implement successfully than it once was because of the way the game has developed.

There was a time when back fours played 50 games a season together. Think about Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Nigel Winterburn. Or the back four I played with at the start of my career, with Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister and Denis Irwin. They all knew each other, trained together for years, played together every week and all spoke English.

At sixes and sevens: Manchester City's zonal marking fell flat as Niklas Moisander nodded Ajax's second

At sixes and sevens: Manchester City's zonal marking fell flat as Niklas Moisander nodded Ajax's second

None of the above is necessarily true any more. In a season of 65-plus games, the back four will change week in, week out because of rotation or injury. Not all the players will speak good English. And you don’t have time for lots of defensive drills together between matches. That’s just the nature of modern football.

In those circumstances, the old intricate ways of defending are losing their value. Man-to-man marking is much simpler and responsibilities are clearer. And in a changing football world, that’s a much easier system to implement than the relative complexity of zonal marking.

Rio Ferdinand hailed by Manchester United stars

Are you watching, Roy United stars hail Ferdinand performance in win at Newcastle

|

UPDATED:

15:11 GMT, 8 October 2012

Rio Ferdinand may be surplus to requirements for Roy Hodgson, but his Manchester United team-mates are thankful to have him around.

Again left out of the England squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, Ferdinand was on the right track in Newcastle on Sunday.

The 33-year-old showed all the old poise to stroll through a 3-0 win over Alan Pardew's men that kept United in touch with early Barclays Premier League pace-setters Chelsea.

Afforded more protection by United's new diamond formation than he got the previous weekend against Tottenham's speedsters, Ferdinand showed he remains a class act.

Case for the defence: Ferdinand impressed for United on Sunday

Case for the defence: Ferdinand impressed for United on Sunday

Not that the United dressing room ever felt otherwise.

'Rio is quality,' said defensive colleague Jonny Evans.

'He is so experienced. He cruises through games.

'He comes off at the end and there is not a bit of sweat on him. It looks like could play on and on.'

That is the style Ferdinand adopts when he is at his best.

It is the reason why there were calls for him to be recalled by Hodgson for the forthcoming games with San Marino and Poland.

Sir Alex Ferguson is doubtless glad Hodgson has chosen a different route given the delicate nature of his defensive resources, even when Chris Smalling gets ready to return from his broken metatarsal after the international break.

Nevertheless, the defence of Hodgson's position, if not by him then by others who share the same opinion, has brought criticism Tom Cleverley cannot fathom.

Back to winning ways: United put their defeat to Tottenham behind them

Back to winning ways: United put their defeat to Tottenham behind them

'Rio has had one bad game in six months,' said the midfielder, who scored United's brilliant third, even if his manager insists he did not mean in.

'We have conceded a few goals and made a few silly mistakes this season.

'But I couldn't believe some of the stuff I have read about Rio in midweek.

'He has definitely not deserved that.'

Repelling the threat of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse should provide a welcome confidence boost for United after their disastrous attempts to subdue Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon during that damaging home defeat by Tottenham eight days previously.

The ease with which Spurs cut straight down the middle of United's midfield at Old Trafford prompted a tactical rethink from Sir Alex Ferguson that involved Wayne Rooney adopting a deep-lying midfield role.

And it seems to be working, even if Ferguson accepts there are issues that have to be taken into account.

'The diamond closes off the midfield,' he said.

New role: Rooney was asked to play deeper by Ferguson

New role: Rooney was asked to play deeper by Ferguson

'Your only problem is when the ball goes out wide because you need to be aware of how far your midfield gets separated.

'But if you try to keep the tightness in midfield, the opposition has to go wide.'

Even at this early stage of the season, it was a big win for United.

Going into the game seven points behind Chelsea, whom they visit on October 28, they knew anything other than a victory would put them in trouble.

'Seven points is a big gap and if we had dropped more points it would have been a big task,' said Evans.

'Although it is still early on in the season, you don't want to give a team that kind of advantage.'

There was an additional piece of good news for United today with striker Robin van Persie not facing any sanction for his second-half clash with Yohan Cabaye during Sunday's game.

Referee Howard Webb reviewed the incident again this morning after initially missing it and decided it was not worthy of a straight red card.

London 2012 Olympics: Rajiv Ouseph overcomes Henri Hurskainen

British badminton star Ouseph overcomes Hurskainen in Games opener

|

UPDATED:

22:19 GMT, 29 July 2012

Steady progress: Ouseph

Steady progress: Ouseph

Great Britain's men's singles hope Rajiv Ouseph came through a see-saw encounter with Sweden's Henri Hurskainen to launch his London 2012 challenge with a win.

Both players enjoyed spells of dominance but also made frequent mistakes before world No 25 Ouseph finally prevailed 22-20 17-21 21-15.

It was not until the third game that the wristy Ouseph hit his stride, opening up a seven-point lead, but there was still a nervy finish before he won on his second match point.

The winning smash brought up a huge roar from the vociferous home crowd, who had been made to wait late into the evening session for Ouseph to appear.

Huddersfield sign sacked Widness hooker Scott Moore

Second chance for Scott: Huddersfield sign sacked Widness hooker Moore

|

UPDATED:

09:54 GMT, 17 April 2012

Huddersfield have signed controversial hooker Scott Moore less than a week after he was sacked by Widnes.

The 24-year-old, who played for the Giants for a season while on loan from St Helens three years ago, has signed a contract them until the end of the season.

Huddersfield coach Nathan Brown said: 'Scotty was great for us in my first year here and it will be good to get him back into our environment.

'He has had a well-documented path since and this is a great chance for him to start afresh in a new town and team.

Chance: Scott Moore has been signed by Huddersfield

Chance: Scott Moore has been signed by Huddersfield

'He will be very warmly welcomed by us as we know the attributes that he can bring to our team.'

Huddersfield moved to fill the gap caused by injury to Tommy Lee and are to allow another England hooker, Shaun Lunt, to move on loan in order to accommodate Moore on their salary cap.

Moore joined the Vikings on a three-year contract from St Helens at the start of the season but was suspended by them after only two games for an unspecified incident and was sacked last Thursday after another breach of discipline.

He played his best rugby while on loan to Huddersfield, helping them reach the Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

He was capped by England during his spell with the Giants and was named in the Super League Dream Team.

Moore blotted his copybook with the Giants by getting himself suspended for missing training to attend an awards night in London with actor Micky Rourke but was quickly forgiven after serving an internal ban.

'I had success here last time and that is the aim for me again,' he said.

'The team is going well and my first challenge will be to get a slot in the side as there is so much quality here in depth.

'I am grateful for the opportunity to put some silly mistakes recently behind me and look forward to repaying the faith that Nathan and the club have in me on and off the field.'

Huddersfield managing director Richard Thewlis said: 'The cap situation means that some alterations to the squad will be made with Scotty coming on board.

'Shaun Lunt has been looking for guaranteed game time which we can all see has been limited this year here for him so he will be permitted to move on loan as is his desire and I expect him to shortly announce that he has made arrangements until the end of the season.

'Furthermore, I expect more announcements in the next few days in relation to some longer-term squad matters that can now be addressed.'

US Masters 2012: Luke Donald shows survival instinct

Desperate Donald shows survival instinct

|

UPDATED:

22:35 GMT, 7 April 2012

Despondent Luke Donald compounded the
disappointment of his first two days at the Masters by turning what had
been a nightmare on and off the course into a disaster.

The world No 1 was edging towards
third-round respectability when he fell foul of Rae's Creek on Augusta
National's 510-yard par-five 13th hole and sank to a double-bogey seven.

Sneaking in: Donald made the cut by one

Sneaking in: Donald made the cut by one

He followed that with a bogey five at the 14th and his misery was complete when he bogeyed the last hole for a four-over 75. 'I feel a bit flat right now,' he said.

'I had high hopes for this week and it hasn't panned out. 'I'm disappointed because I had prepared as well as ever. Careless mistakes have cost me. I have to keep working. At this stage of my career I need to get into contention in majors.'

An eagle two at the second and a birdie four at the eighth had contributed to a two-under front nine, which compensated for opening rounds of 75 and 73.

But trouble lurked at the 10th.

Before disaster struck: Luke Donald and Keegan Bradley (left) walk up to the third green

Before disaster struck: Luke Donald and Keegan Bradley (left) walk up to the third green

A bogey five was the prelude to the crushing blow three holes later when his three iron was a fraction short, catching the top of the bank and dropping back into water.

'I thought I'd hit a decent shot but missed carrying by two inches, otherwise it would have been 30 feet away for an eagle, but I made a seven. That's how this course is sometimes.

'Same again on 14. I drilled a five iron right of the pin and, if it goes another three or four feet, I have a 10 footer for birdie. It rolls down the hill 45 feet away and I three-putt.

'It's been one of those weeks. I've not played that badly. I've probably driven it as well as I ever have here. My iron play hasn't been sharp enough and certainly not my short game.'

Ledley King orders Tottenham defensive improvement

King makes case for the defence as captain orders Spurs to cut out costly mistakes

Tottenham captain Ledley King has warned his team-mates that they cannot afford to keep repeating the kind of abject defensive display that has seen them concede eight goals in their last two matches.

Spurs have kept pace with both Manchester teams for the majority of the season but they now find themselves 13 points off the Barclays Premier League summit after following up their 5-2 mauling at Arsenal with a 3-1 defeat at home to Manchester United.

The north Londoners are now resigned to scrapping for a third-place finish with the Gunners and Chelsea, who trail them by four and seven points respectively.

Sort it out: Ledley King has ordered his Tottenham team-mates to cut out costly errors following their defeat to Manchester United

Sort it out: Ledley King has ordered his Tottenham team-mates to cut out costly errors following their defeat to Manchester United

Harry Redknapp's men dominated for large parts of the match but lost thanks to a header from Wayne Rooney, who headed home unmarked in the first half, and two goals from Ashley Young – both of which came as a result of poor defending.

An early season wobble aside, Tottenham have been excellent at the back this term, with King performing well alongside the outstanding Younes Kaboul.

The 31-year-old does admit that the squad's defensive displays against Arsenal and United have not been up to scratch, however.

'You're not going to beat teams like United if you're not concentrating and it was a bit of a lesson,' he said.

'You can't fault the work rate and we gave a good account of ourselves for the majority of the game but if you fall asleep at vital moments, you get punished.

'To allow them a free header in the six-yard box on the brink of half-time was disappointing. It shouldn't be happening.

'We lifted ourselves but we went to sleep on a throw-in for the second goal.'

Spurs face a tough trip to Everton next weekend before their crucial game at Chelsea and they also have to overcome Stevenage in their FA Cup fifth-round replay at White Hart Lane on Wednesday.

Take a break: King, who suffers a chronic knee problem, will be rested for the FA Cup replay against Stevenage

Take a break: King, who suffers a chronic knee problem, will be rested for the FA Cup replay against Stevenage

King, whose chronic knee problems mean he will sit out the Stevenage game, has called on the squad to bounce back from their recent dip, although he knows that achieving Champions League qualification will be difficult.

'There's tough games all the time because there are teams in the league now that are fighting for the league, fighting for European qualification, and fighting against relegation,' he added.

'It will be a dogfight until the end. Every team wants to pick up points and we're the same. We want to try to finish the season on a positive note.

'We've got a chance to get through to the next round of the FA Cup this week.

'We have to pick ourselves up during this week, be ready for that and keep going.'

Living the dream: Tottenham youngster Jake Livermore was pleased to play against his hero Paul Scholes (not pictured)

Living the dream: Tottenham youngster Jake Livermore was pleased to play against his hero Paul Scholes (not pictured)

One of the positives to come out of the defeat for Spurs was the performance of Jake Livermore.

The midfielder, playing due to Scott Parker's suspension, dictated play well in the middle of the park in what was just his fifth league start.

The 23-year-old was disappointed with the result but delighted to play against one of his childhood heroes Paul Scholes.

'He's one of those players that you look up to when you're a kid,' Livermore said.

'It's brilliant to play against those sort of players and test yourself. If we had won I would have asked for his shirt.'

David Lloyd on England"s Test defeat to Pakistan

Bumble in the desert: Saved by a snick as Strauss and Co mull over technology doubts

Everybody got hot under the collar about the DRS and you have to accept that the technology is not 100 per cent. Andrew Strauss took 10 seconds to decide to review his, so he wasn't sure. HotSpot was inconclusive but there was a big noise. That's what TV umpire Steve Davis went on.

Gone: Strauss was controversially dismissed in England's second innings

Gone: Strauss was controversially dismissed in England's second innings

A Saeed of doubt

The Saeed Ajmal dismissal was different. That was nothing to do with DRS, simply an error by the umpire for me. He was given caught but it seemed to come off his pad. Ajmal reviewed it immediately but HotSpot was a frame out. The TV umpire couldn't be sure so it stays with the on-field call.

Man of the moment: Ajmal caused England all sorts of problems during the first Test

Man of the moment: Ajmal caused England all sorts of problems during the first Test

And no, I was never out

Let's be fair, batsmen are never out! I was never out in 20 years! Even if you knock all three poles out the batsman says it was a no ball. David Steele was once bowled and said it was the wind. Bill Alley told him to be careful it didn't blow his cap off as he walked back to the pavilion

Day Lamb got the chop

Get on with the game: Umpires will make mistakes

Get on with the game: Umpires will make mistakes

When I was an umpire the incomparable Ray Julian, who was standing with me in a game, said: 'Mr Lloyd, look who's coming in to bat now, it's Mr Allan Lamb. I bet I get him before you do.' Sure enough he gave him lbw and shouted: 'I told you Mr Lloyd.'

Umps love reviews…

I should declare an interest. I am one of the selectors of the ICC's panel of elite umpires along with Venkat, David Richardson and Ranjan Madugalle. I can tell you the umpires are very comfortable with the DRS and it means more decisions are correct. Mistakes still get made. In true Lloyd style – get on with the game!

But just have the one

A potential solution to the confusion currently being debated is that there should be only one review per team, so the players would have to think really carefully before using it. That would take tactical use out and would return the DRS to its original aim – that it should cut out the howlers…

Hail Captain Calm

Drubbed. Taken to the cleaners and hung out to dry. Thoroughly outplayed by a very methodical Pakistan. Captain Misbah ul-Haq has a calmness which belies this volatile nation. As the forthright Michael Henderson once said: 'Pull your socks up England. This simply will not do.'

Rory McIlroy makes perfect start at Dubai World Championship

McIlroy makes perfect start as world No 1 Donald pays the price in Dubai

Anyone watching Rory McIlroy’s breathtaking exhibition over the back nine at the Dubai World Championship on Thursday could easily have drawn the conclusion that he is the most talented golfer around.

Poor Luke Donald. One day after paying the Northern Irishman that ultimate compliment, he must have beenhoping not to witness quite such an exquisite illustration of what he was talking about.

In the hunt: Rory McIlroy is two shots off the lead at the Earth Course in Dubai

In the hunt: Rory McIlroy is two shots off the lead at the Earth Course in Dubai

Dubai World Championship

Click here for the full leaderboard

As for all neutrals and fans of McIlroy, this was the opening day they craved, one that promises to turn the Race to Dubai into a sprint to the 18th green on Sunday.

Yet who could have predicted this at the halfway stage yesterday Donald, rock-solid as he has been all season, had gone to the turn in 33 strokes, while McIlroy had paid for a couple of mental mistakes and taken three shots more.

Remember, McIlroy has to win this event and hope the Englishman finishes worse than ninth to snatch the Order of Merit from him at the last gasp. Never mind the Earth Course. After all the anticipation leading up to the first tee shots, it was looking like the venue ought to be renamed the Down to Earth course.

Until tomorrow: McIlroy shakes hands with Luke Donald after round one in Dubai

Until tomorrow: McIlroy shakes hands with Luke Donald after round one in Dubai

Fortunately, McIlroy doesn’t do boring, does he Over nine scintillating holes, the mistakes disappearedand so did no fewer than six birdie putts. If you added up the length of those strokes he holed, they came to — if you can believe this — 137 feet. And that’s supposed to be the weakest part of his game.

Donald admitted afterwards he had allowed himself to get caught up into thinking that it was a head-to-head against McIlroy, and duly paid the price. Two successive drives on the 14th and 15th holes were so wild he had to declare both unplayable. When did that last happen — when he was about nine ‘I couldn’t tell you, I try to block out things like that,’ he said, with a rueful grin.

All told, he needed no fewer than nine shots more over that back nine than his only rival for the Race to Dubai and ended up with a 72 to McIlroy’s 66. McIlroy lies third behind the Scot Paul Lawrie, who shot 65, while the Swede Peter Hanson leads following a wonderful 64.

Level par: Donald was a bit wayward off the tee during his round of 72

Level par: Donald was a bit wayward off the tee during his round of 72

Donald is in the middle of the chasing pack, and it might suit him that he will not be playing with McIlroy again today.

‘It was definitely a mixture of two halves for me, with some very loose shots on the back nine,’ said Donald. ‘The good thing is I’ve got plentyof time to repair the damage. It’s important I get back to taking careof my own business over the next three days.’

As for the buoyant McIlroy, he was only too happy to revel in his psychological advantage at this early stage. He couldn’t hide the glint in his eye as he reflected: ‘This was the perfect start for me. To shoot a great score like that really sets me up nicely for the next three days.

‘There were a couple of silly mistakes on the front nine but the back nine was pretty much flawless.’

Nicely done: Sweden

Nicely done: Sweden”s Peter Hanson is out in front on his own after a 64

McIlroy is currently enjoying the most consistent form of his professional career. Since recovering from injuring his hand at the US PGA Championship in August he hasn’t finished outside the top four in any event and has won twice. ‘I do feel every time I tee it up right nowI’ve got a good chance of shooting a good score,’ he said.

‘Everything seems sort of stress-free right now.’

What made McIlroy’s score all the more remarkable is that he lost a ballon the second hole and ran up an ugly seven — but how he made amends.
McIlroy’s girlfriend, world No 1 tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, is due in town today for the potentially thrilling denouement.

As she might put it, following a wonderful opening day: advantage, McIlroy.