Danny Willett two back as three share halfway lead at Irish Open


Highlights from the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

Danny Willett posted a two-under 70 to get within two strokes off the halfway lead at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, as Rory McIlroy slipped further down the leaderboard.

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Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

Willett followed up his opening-round 68 by mixing five birdies with a bogey and a double-bogey at Ballyliffin to get to six under, as three players hold a share of the halfway advantage.

First-round leader Ryan Fox and Matthieu Pavon set the clubhouse target, only for Erik van Rooyen to move alongside them after finishing his round-of-the-day 65 with back-to-back birdies.

Joakim Lagergren is a shot off the pace, as tournament host McIlroy struggled on the greens for the second day running and bogeyed his final two holes to join Jon Rahm seven strokes back.

“It’s nice to come out and hit the shots that you can see in practise and actually perform still under pressure,” Willett said. “I’m very happy to be playing nicely.”

Fox lost his overnight advantage with a bogey a third but birdied two of his final three holes, as Pavon holed a 50-footer on the seven – his 16th hole – on his way to a second successive 68.

Van Rooyen moved up the leaderboard by firing five birdies in a front-nine 30, while Willett is joined on six under by Sam Horsfield and Zander Lombard.

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Lee Westwood is three shots back after recovering from three bogeys in a four-hole stretch to post a one-under 71, with Russell Knox one of three players on four under.

“I’ve got myself in a good position,” Westwood said. “I still have a pretty good chance over the weekend. It’s a difficult golf course to lead on and keep going forward on.”

Defending champion Rahm safely made the weekend after signing for a three-under 69, as home favourite Padraig Harrington crashed out after stuttering to a six-over 78.

Watch the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open live throughout the weekend live on Sky Sports. Live coverage continues on Saturday from 12.30pm on Sky Sports Golf.