Rory McIlroy holds two-shot lead at Dubai Invitational, talks Keith Pelley’s departure: ‘I’m happy for him’

Rory McIlroy loves this time of year. The Northern Irishman has finished inside the top 5 in his first event of the year 13 of the last 15 years, including a win at the 2023 Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

Well, he’s at it again two rounds into the Dubai Invitational where he holds a two-shot lead over Yannik Paul and Jeff Winther at 10 under. McIlroy scorched Dubai Creek Resort on Thursday, signing for a 9-under 62, but Friday was a bit of a different story.

After two birdies on Nos. 3 and 4 to start his day, McIlroy stumbled on the par-3 8th, settling for a devastating quadruple-bogey seven. After making the turn with a 2-over 37, McIlroy birdied Nos. 10, 13 and 16 coming home to get back into red figures for the day, signing for a 1-under 70.

Dubai Invitational: Leaderboard

“Yeah, I think if I look at the other 17 holes that I played, I played very, very well again. Hit some good iron shots,” McIlroy told the media after his round.

“Played not too dissimilarly to the way I played yesterday. I may be held a couple more putts yesterday. But the conditions were getting a little trickier. Wind was up. Greens were firm and a couple miscues on the 8th hole.

“I felt like I did well just to get my head back into it and play some solid golf on the way in.”

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the fifth hole during the second round of the Dubai Invitational at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club on January 12, 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, TSN reported that DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley is leaving his post for a job with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, as well as the city’s MLS and Canadian Football League franchises.

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“First, I’m happy for him. I think the job he’s going to is one that he’s probably wanted for a long, long time, being from Canada, especially Toronto and be able to run two major sports in Toronto, the hockey team and the basketball team, I think is a wonderful opportunity for Keith,” McIlroy said when asked about Pelley’s departure.

“So I’m happy for him in that regard.”

McIlroy, who trails only Scottie Scheffler in the Official World Golf Ranking, last won at the 2023 Scottish Open.

He’ll have a chance to capitalize at his first start of the year once again this weekend.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek