McIlroy hits back after tossing ball away

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The world number two, who is six shots adrift of leader Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain, dropped a stroke at the first hole and threw his ball away in disgust after three-putting the fourth.

Defending champion McIlroy then mixed a birdie at the fifth with more dropped strokes at the eighth, ninth and 11th before staging a late rally.

“I struggled in the wind a little bit,” the four-times major winner told reporters after carding a level-par 72 for a four-under tally of 140.

“I bounced back well and persevered and got something out of the round in the end. It never looked like I was going to shoot better than over-par but to shoot par is not bad and I just need to make sure I get off to a fast start tomorrow.

“I've come back from bigger deficits than this and this is one of my favourite places,” said McIlroy who also won the tournament in 2009. “I'll get better conditions, as well, being out a little earlier.”

Twice European Tour winner Cabrera-Bello hailed “one of the best putting rounds of my life” after shooting a second successive 67 to set the pace on 10-under 134.

The Spaniard, who won the Desert Classic four years ago, had only 26 putts in his round on Friday.

“Yesterday I really felt I played great from tee to green,” said Cabrera-Bello. “I gave myself lots of chances.

“Today was the exact opposite, I didn't play as well, as sharp. I didn't quite find my tempo but the putting was extremely hot.”

Ernie Els, another four-times major winner and a record triple champion at the Desert Classic, posted a 67 to share second place on 135 with fellow South African Trevor Fisher (68) and Britain's Danny Willett (65).

Reuters

Original source: McIlroy hits back after tossing ball away

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