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Rory McIlroy battles his game and the wind on a brutal day in the desert | Golf

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Rory McIlroy’s self-analysis said it all. “I have absolutely no idea,” replied the world No. 8 when asked about the state of his game after a 75 second round at the Abu Dhabi Championship. A converted birdie putt on the 18th should, barring something out of the ordinary from those due to complete the second round on Saturday morning, be enough to see him rate another 36 holes.

It was a curiously brutal day in the desert. The winds were constantly whipping at 20 mph and blowing at nearly double that. The challenge was not at all what McIlroy and his friends had in mind when they chose to start their competitive year at Yas Links. The scene was far from everyone’s cup of tea. “An absolute joke. Ridiculous,” barked Colin Montgomerie as he walked to his second-to-last tee. Either Monty was railing about the course conditions or a sand ant had moved in at an inappropriate time while he was playing the previous hole.

McIlroy was more pragmatic – the course didn’t seem unplayable at any point – but acknowledged a strange afternoon at the office. “It’s different,” McIlroy said. “I don’t remember when it was like that here. I played in a few sandstorms in Dubai and a few mornings it was cold in Abu Dhabi but nothing like it.

“I played as free as I could and played the conditions with the shots I needed to play. I thought I drove it well. A few iron shots escaped me but other than that, I didn’t feel like I did that badly.I think my kind of stray shots have been around the greens mostly the last two days.

At plus three, McIlroy is 10 shots off the lead held by Scott Jamieson, who added a 74 to the stunning 63 on Day 1. “It’s windier than Scotland,” smiles the Glaswegian. “It was cold today too. It’s not what I expected. I knew it would be windy, but I figured it would still be short sleeves.

“It’s a great test from tee to green, if you want to call it a test, at the mercy of whatever flurry you may or may not have. You sometimes play for wind and you don’t get it, and when your ball defies gravity and sometimes goes up slopes. I’m pretty happy with two over par today.

Viktor Hovland, Ian Poulter and James Morrison have Jamieson in their sights for six under. Morrison is among those whose second round is incomplete, having reached the 15th tee when darkness interrupted proceedings. It was no shock to see Poulter relishing his fight against the elements.

Rory McIlroy battles his game and the wind on a brutal day in the desert |  Golf

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The water behind Scott Jamieson shows the strength of the wind at Yas Links on day two. Photography: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

“You don’t play in that kind of wind very often, especially when you’ve had nine weeks off and it’s never going to be that windy out of season, so you’re not really going to practice in it.” he said. “To throw this at you at the start of the season is tricky.

“It’s been a while since you’ve had to hit these type of shots. In a way, it’s pretty cool. We’ve played them in the past, throwing seven irons 120 yards out and throwing hitting three woods at 217. You have to go through the records and try to remember some of the shots you played next.”

Collin Morikawa should, like McIlroy, survive the coupe in one fell swoop. Among those definitely heading for an early Yas Links exit are Robert MacIntyre – who followed a 69 with a hurting 80 – and Nicolai Højgaard.

Rory McIlroy battles his game and the wind on a brutal day in the desert | Golf

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