Tournament: Hero Dubai Desert Classic
Rolex Series: Second Rolex Series tournament of 2023
DP World Tour Rankings: Tournament 8 of 45 events
Venue: Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Prize Fund: $9,000,000
Hashtag: #HeroDDC  #RolexSeries #DPWT

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – JANUARY 28: Thomas Pieters of Belgium tees off on the 8th hole during the continuation of Round Two on Day Three of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club on January 28, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Round Two Report

Thomas Pieters produced fireworks late in his second round as he shot seven birdies on the back nine to share the lead at the halfway stage of the 2023 Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

The Belgian suffered the disappointment of missing the cut at last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as his title defence fell flat, but the 31-year-old has responded brilliantly at Emirates Golf Club signing for a 67 on Saturday.

The six-time DP World Tour winner led after the weather-affected first day before finishing his second round with a flourish on day three to sit alongside amateur Michael Thorbjornsen and Richard Bland on ten under par.

Pieters had started the day on five under but carded three bogeys and just one birdie on the front nine to appear in danger of missing the cut for the second week in succession. He turned things around on the back nine in the afternoon, as birdies at the tenth, 11th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 18th earned him a share of the lead.

Englishman Bland, who had made three birdies in the first four holes of his second round before play was suspended due to fading light on Friday, carded three more birdies and a solitary bogey in his remaining 14 holes on Saturday morning to sign for a second straight 67.

Thorbjornsen joined the pair at the summit late in his round after carding an eagle, seven birdies and one bogey in his 64. The American, who is currently second in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, started at the tenth tee on Saturday and made five birdies in his first six holes before chipping in for a brilliant eagle at the long 18th.

Swede Marcus Kinhult, Scotland’s Connor Syme and Spaniard Adri Arnaus sat one shot off the lead on nine under, with World Number One Rory McIlroy among those another stroke back.

Round three will tee off at 07:10 local time on Sunday, with round four scheduled for Monday. 

Player quotes

Thomas Pieters: “Yeah, the front nine I was a bit scruffy. I made two bogeys with a wedge coming off nine. I was not in a good head space, and then I shoot 31 on the back, I don’t know how, but my putting seemed to work, and you know, I’ve still got some work to do on the range because my driving is pretty poor.

“Like I said the putting has kind of bailed me out. I can definitely see them rolling in from 15 feet which is a nice feeling, but I’ve got to get a bit more stress free off the tee.

“There’s no stress levels. I was just really angry after nine. It wasn’t really stress. I was just trying to get back into my round. But it’s nice to see your name up at the top.”

Michael Thorbjornsen (AM): “It feels good. Didn’t have the best round yesterday and then day before, felt like I missed a lot of putts out there. Thought I had a pretty good game plan but just stuck to it today. I actually made some putts. 

“I enjoy playing professional golf a lot and I’m still an amateur but just the golf courses that we play, the crowd out there, it’s what I’m dreaming of ever since I was five or six years old. It just feels good to be out there.

“I mean, always you want to beat your fellow ams. But I definitely feel like Ludvig (Aberg) and I push each other. In college we played a lot of golf recently together the past year, and I’m happy to see he’s doing well and I hope he’s happy to see I’m doing well and we’re pushing each other.”

Richard Bland: “Yeah, a lot easier. The ball wasn’t going too far this morning. So that was kind of one of the sort of things you just had to kind of be wary of as it warmed up, ball was traveling a little further, so yeah, I got caught out a couple of times early. Hit like what I thought was a good shot and came up, it was 20 yards’ difference what it should do.

“Just not doing an awful lot wrong. Every part of my game is in pretty good shape. Yeah, the only dropped shot was at 6 this morning where I kind of second hole of the day and misjudged the temperature and chipped to three feet and missed. So other than that, it’s been pretty stress-free which is kind of nice.”

Rory McIlroy: “More of the same, really. I think I only hit two fairways today. When you can’t hit fairways around here, and the rough is quite thick, it’s very hard to have any control of your ball and get it close into par fours. Yeah, just a little rusty. Need to go do a little work.

“I chipped and putted it well, and I sort of got myself around the golf course okay. Being able to post a couple of decent scores and at least have a chance going into the last two days. But definitely more negatives than positives and need to go and figure it out on the range.

“I’m glad that they went to a Monday. It’s good that all the field get an opportunity to play 72 holes. I think it’s a good thing. It’s such a big event, I think now the discrepancy between these big events on Tour and then the lesser ones, that fourth day could mean a lot to someone in terms of changing the course of their year or the course of their career.”

Round two scores
 134 R BLAND (ENG) 67 67, T PIETERS (BEL) 67 67, M THORBJORNSEN (AM) (USA) 70 64, 
 135 M KINHULT (SWE) 70 65, A ARNAUS (ESP) 67 68, C SYME (SCO) 68 67, 
 136 A HIDALGO (ESP) 66 70, I POULTER (ENG) 65 71, L HERBERT (AUS) 69 67, D BRADBURY (ENG) 73 63, B WIESBERGER (AUT) 69 67, R MCILROY (NIR) 66 70, P REED (USA) 66 70, M WALLACE (ENG) 68 68, 
 137 J BRUN (FRA) 70 67, T OLESEN (DEN) 70 67, C HILL (SCO) 70 67, L DE JAGER (RSA) 66 71, J VEERMAN (USA) 71 66, C SHINKWIN (ENG) 71 66, M ARMITAGE (ENG) 69 68, 
 138 L ABERG (AM) (SWE) 65 73, J KRUYSWIJK (RSA) 69 69, D GAVINS (ENG) 68 70, J HARDING (RSA) 70 68, T FLEETWOOD (ENG) 68 70, M LEE (AUS) 73 65, S NORRIS (RSA) 71 67, P LARRAZ?BAL (ESP) 73 65, 
 139 O BEKKER (RSA) 68 71, A OTAEGUI (ESP) 69 70, J CAMPILLO (ESP) 70 69, A WU (CHN) 71 68, E FERGUSON (SCO) 71 68, A BJ?RK (SWE) 69 70, R MACINTYRE (SCO) 70 69, V PEREZ (FRA) 67 72, R LANGASQUE (FRA) 69 70, N H?JGAARD (DEN) 70 69, J WANG (KOR) 68 71, 
 140 C HANNA (USA) 70 70, A JOHNSTON (ENG) 72 68, G FORREST (SCO) 71 69, J LUITEN (NED) 70 70, D HUIZING (NED) 69 71, M KIEFFER (GER) 73 67, M LINDBERG (SWE) 73 67, N VON DELLINGSHAUSEN (GER) 71 69, J JANEWATTANANOND (THA) 72 68, M JORDAN (ENG) 68 72, R FOX (NZL) 69 71, J CATLIN (USA) 72 68, J GUERRIER (FRA) 69 71, P WARING (ENG) 71 69, D LAW (SCO) 71 69, J DANTORP (SWE) 69 71, 
 141 M HELLIGKILDE (DEN) 70 71, H DU PLESSIS (RSA) 68 73, S HORSFIELD (ENG) 70 71, K SAMOOJA (FIN) 73 68, D VAN DRIEL (NED) 72 69, N N?RGAARD (DEN) 69 72, L NEMECZ (AUT) 73 68, L WESTWOOD (ENG) 71 70, 
 142 M SCHNEIDER (GER) 71 71, M WARREN (SCO) 74 68, L DONALD (ENG) 70 72, T HATTON (ENG) 72 70, H STENSON (SWE) 70 72, J SMITH (ENG) 76 66, J SCRIVENER (AUS) 71 71, R H?JGAARD (DEN) 71 71, J WALTERS (RSA) 72 70, D HILLIER (NZL) 71 71, T PULKKANEN (FIN) 70 72, M SOUTHGATE (ENG) 71 71, M JIM?NEZ (ESP) 73 69, A ROZNER (FRA) 71 71, S JAMIESON (SCO) 72 70, D WHITNELL (ENG) 71 71, N COLSAERTS (BEL) 71 71, Y PAUL (GER) 74 68, R MANSELL (ENG) 69 73, A SULLIVAN (ENG) 70 72, J DONALDSON (WAL) 72 70, F ZANOTTI (PAR) 69 73, N KIMSEY (ENG) 73 69, 
 143 O STRYDOM (RSA) 72 71, E MOLINARI (ITA) 74 69, R FISHER (ENG) 72 71, S CROCKER (USA) 69 74, A LEVY (FRA) 70 73, S SHARMA (IND) 74 69, T LAWRENCE (RSA) 70 73, O WILSON (ENG) 68 75, M KAWAMURA (JPN) 72 71, M KORHONEN (FIN) 72 71, A ANCER (MEX) 74 69, A COCKERILL (CAN) 73 70, G MIGLIOZZI (ITA) 73 70, J LAGERGREN (SWE) 76 67, J SENIOR (ENG) 72 71, N ELVIRA (ESP) 72 71, 
 144 M PAVON (FRA) 73 71, A MERONK (POL) 74 70, J RITCHIE (RSA) 78 66, T BJ?RN (DEN) 70 74, H LONG (GER) 76 68, S V?LIM?KI (FIN) 76 68, 
 145 S LOWRY (IRL) 70 75, T MCKIBBIN (NIR) 74 71, O HUNDEB?LL (DEN) 70 75, 
 146 J MORRISON (ENG) 72 74, P HARRINGTON (IRL) 81 65, V DUBUISSON (FRA) 74 72, 
 147 Z LOMBARD (RSA) 73 74, F MOLINARI (ITA) 72 75, S STRAKA (AUT) 73 74, W BESSELING (NED) 74 73, 
 148 E KOFSTAD (NOR) 75 73, S KJELDSEN (DEN) 77 71, I ABOU EL ELA (AM) (EGY) 75 73, S TARRIO (ESP) 75 73, J FREIBURGHAUS (SUI) 77 71, G GREEN (MAS) 74 74, E PEPPERELL (ENG) 75 73, A KNAPPE (GER) 75 73, 
 149 R CABRERA BELLO (ESP) 77 72, G COETZEE (RSA) 75 74, 
 150 S S?DERBERG (SWE) 76 74, J WINTHER (DEN) 74 76, S GALLACHER (SCO) 75 75,