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McIlroy makes Fleetwood’s birthday special

‘I wasn’t quite on it today, so it was a bit more of an effort for me’

Image Credit: AP
England’s Tommy Fleetwood (left) is greeted by Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy on the 17th hole during the second round of the Abu Dhabi Championship on Friday.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: It was great to see the camaraderie between four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy and defending champion Tommy Fleetwood as the former walked up with a cake to wish the latter a happy birthday at the end of the second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Friday.

“Tommy, I actually baked this before we teed off,” joked McIlroy interrupting Fleetwood’s post-round interview and asked him to blow the three candles and make three wishes.

“I don’t have three wishes though … I’m coming in to eat a piece of it. You can also have a piece by then,” responded Fleetwood thanking McIlroy for his gesture.

Fleetwood, who led on day one is currently tied on 10-under par along with Ross Fisher of England and Frenchman Alex Levy.

Speaking about his day’s showing, he said that being in the company of McIlroy and World No. 1 Dustin Johnson was helping him immensely.

“Well, it was always going to be great no matter what happened,” said Fleetwood. “I wasn’t quite on it today, so it was a bit more of an effort for me. Dustin shot the most stress-free 64 you’ll ever see.

“Rory too was also in the same league. Those two played great. I was very happy to get in today, sort of from the turn, I didn’t play that great and so I was kind of hanging on.”

McIlroy, too, was delighted with what he displayed on the day. “The course, there was scores out there, obviously looking at the leaderboard, a few guys went low,” he said. “But I hit the ball very well. I drove it well. I hit most of my iron shots very well. I gave myself plenty of chances, and that’s what I’m going to have to do over the next couple of days, as well, if I want to try and win this tournament.

“A 66 was good. There wasn’t that many fireworks apart from the putt on the last.”

Johnson was clearly on the charge and very much in the groove for his eight-under par and he described his performance as stress-free.

“It was pretty easy for a 64,” he said. “I did everything really well. I drove it well. I hit a lot of really good iron shots. Hit a lot of good putts that didn’t go in the hole from pretty close range, but all day, I gave myself really good chances for birdies.”