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Patrick Reed hints at thaw in stand-off with Rory McIlroy in Dubai

Reed revealed a chance meeting with McIIroy ahead of a rain affected round in Dubai.

Rory McIlroy retrieves his ball from water on the 10th hole© AP

Brian KeoghIndependent.ie

Rory McIlroy battled back from a slow start to keep arch-enemy Patrick Reed in his sights at the weather-delayed Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

Just 24 hours after labelling McIlroy “an immature little child” for ignoring him on the range in a bizarre incident that ended with the American flicking a tee his direction, Reed raced to four-under-par through 16 holes to lie one behind Belgian Thomas Pieters (15 holes).

And after his round, Reed revealed a chance meeting with McIIroy this morning.

“My alarm went off at 5am but with the new app I did not see the messaging the Tour was sending out nor the alarm notification on the top of the app page,” said Reed, in quots reported by IrishGolfer.ie.

“So, I get myself ready and then a while later I’m standing out in front of the hotel with my caddy and my coach, and we’re saying ‘where’s the car?’

“It’s now about 10 minutes late and the next thing you know Rory gets out of his courtesy car, as he’s also staying at the same hotel, and he says: ‘Hey? Just to let you know we’re not playing as they’ve suspended the start of play’.

“He’s also saying: ‘We’re off the golf course buddy. We’re off the golf course’.

“So, I say: ‘Okay, thanks for that’ and head back to my room, and go back to bed. Though I’m not sure if Rory was acknowledging me, my coach, my caddy or all three of us but whatever, I’ll take it as a small victory.

“Honestly, what happened this week was really nothing and I know I was over it no more than 30 seconds later but then it turned into the huge ‘Tee Gate’ with assassination and attack on both sides.

“I know when you get to this level we are playing, no matter if it’s the PGA Tour, the European Tour or LIV Golf, it really doesn’t matter as you really have to learn how to handle days when there may be a lot of drama and days that are just normal. That’s why we do this as a living.”

Reed shares second place with Daniel Gavins, Matthew Jordan and Oliver Wilson, who shot 68s, and Tommy Fleetwood and Victor Perez, who had three holes to play with McIlroy tied 12th on two-under with a four foot birdie putt to come on his 16th hole (the short seventh) when play resumes at 8 am local time on Friday.

More than six hours of play were lost after heavy overnight rain flooded the course, allowing only four groups to complete their opening rounds in front of caddies, media and officials only due to safety concerns.

While Pieters got to five-under with three holes on the front nine remaining when play was suspended due to darkness, world number one McIlroy fought back from one-over through eight holes to two-under through 15 when the hooter sounded.

The Holywood star (33) had a four-footer for a birdie two at the seventh to get to three-under. But he looked rusty early and found just four greens in regulation on his opening nine before finding his groove.

He drove into casual water in the desert at the 10th, but after a drop and a pulled approach into the left rough, he pitched to 23 feet and rolled in the birdie putt.

He expected some early season rust after nearly two months off and dropped a shot at the 12th, flying the green from just 125 yards before leaving his delicate chip from thick rough on the fringe.

He would have expected to get that shot back at the 554-yard 13th but pushed his approach into water and did well to save par after a drop, rolling in a 14-footer for his five.

Another shot would go at the 199-yard 15th, however, where he missed the green right on the short grass and failed with a 10-footer for par after again coming up short with his pitch.

He was tied 48th, four shots behind early leaders Robert MacIntyre, Gavins and Reed. He had to scramble for pars at the 16th and 17th but played a delicate bunker to a few feet to set up a birdie at the 18th and turn in level par.

He might have birdied the first after a towering approach but misjudged his seven-footer.

But he was soon up in the red, brushing in from nine foot at the second before chipping close at the par-five third to move to two-under.

The four-time Major winner had to scramble again for pars at the fourth and sixth, where he knocked in a 10-foot putt.

He looks likely to get to three under when play resumes early on Friday after a 172-yard tee shot to four feet at the seventh before taking on two of the toughest holes on the course to complete his first competitive round of 2023.

McIlroy’s fellow Holywood clubman Tom McKibbin (20) looked set to challenge for the early first-round lead when he raced to the top of the leaderboard with four birdies in a row from the 18th to the third, leaving him tied at the top on four-under.

But the Newtownabbey rookie bogeyed the fourth, fifth and sixth and then had a a triple bogey seven at the eighth, where he drove into trouble right and took four more to get down from 80 yards.

A two-over 74 left McKibbin tied 57th, but it was an even more exasperating day for veteran Pádraig Harrington, who feared “brutal” conditions on the eve of the first round.

The US Senior Open champion was eight-over through 13 holes after a nightmare run.

After starting with three-putt bogeys at the 10th and 11th, he double-bogeyed the par-five 13th after driving into trouble and bogeyed the 15th and 16th to slip to seven-over.

He did well to scramble a par after finding water with his approach to the 18th but went on to bogey the first and follow a birdie at the second with a double bogey on the 166-yard fourth, where he found water with his tee shot.

Shane Lowry did not get to start and faces the prospect of 36 holes on Friday, weather and light permitting.

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