“I’ve never been so glad to get off a golf course,” McIlroy was overheard saying after he birdied the 18th hole at Yas Links to complete a hard-fought 75 on a day of persistent strong wind and gusts of up to 35mph.
McIlroy had been comfortably inside the cut line when he holed from five feet for an eagle on the par-five seventh, but dropped four shots in five holes from the 13th before getting up and down from 44 yards on the last.
That took the four-time major winner on to the projected cut mark of three over par, although that could change with more than 30 players unable to complete the second round on schedule on Friday.
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“I feel like I’m hitting it well,” McIlroy said.
“Hit it well on the range this morning. It’s all in there. But hopefully I get to play the weekend and we’ll have a couple of calm days. I’d just like another two competitive days of play and see where I’m at.”
McIlroy admitted he had not been expecting such conditions in Abu Dhabi, adding: “No. It’s like, I’ll go to the Middle East, perfect. It’s different.
“I can’t remember when it’s been like this here. I played in a couple of sandstorms in Dubai and a couple of mornings it’s been cold in Abu Dhabi, but nothing like this.”
Jeff Winther was the only player to break 70 on day, a superb 69 lifting the Dane 45 places on the leaderboard and within three shots of the lead held by Scott Jamieson.
Jamieson added a 74 to his opening 63 to post the halfway target of seven under par, with Ryder Cup team-mates Ian Poulter and Viktor Hovland a shot behind following rounds of 72 and 74 respectively.
England’s James Morrison was also six under par with four holes of his round to play.
Poulter, who birdied his first two holes of the day and three-putted twice for his two bogeys, admitted he had to dig deep into the memory bank to recall how to master such tough conditions.
“You don’t get to play in this kind of wind very often, especially when you’ve had nine weeks off and it’s never going to be this windy in the off-season, so you don’t really go and practice in it,” Poulter said.
“To get this thrown at you early in the season is tricky. Shane (Lowry) would have said the same.
“It was kind of like, God, it’s been a while since you’ve had to hit those type of shots. In a way, it’s actually quite nice. We’ve played them in the past, chipping 7-irons from 120 (yards) and hitting 3-woods from 217.
“You’ve got to go into the archive and try and remember some of the shots you’ve played in the past.”
Lowry matched playing partner Poulter’s 72 to lie two shots off the lead and said: “I’m absolutely thrilled with 72, to be honest.
“I’d prefer it was calm but I know how to play in those conditions because in the wind I think about it a lot less and I just hit the shots I see. That’s what makes me so good in the wind I think. I just kind of play with a lot of feel.”
Sweden’s Alexander Bjork was alongside Lowry on five under thanks to a 71 aided by holing an extraordinary 102ft birdie putt on the ninth.
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