Dubai Desert Classic: Top dog Davis looks back with a smile

Friday, March 02, 2001
Londoner Brian Davis set the early clubhouse target on the second day of the Dubai Desert Classic.

Davis was returning to the scene of one of the worst experiences of his life, but his second round 65 brought a massive smile to his face.

Resuming on three-under-par, five adrift of co-overnight leaders Tiger Woods and Dane Thomas Bjorn, Davis grabbed a superb seven birdies which enabled him to set the early clubhouse target.

The 26-year-old's previous memory of the Middle East was of falling ill with what was diagnosed as chickenpox two years ago and then spending a week in intensive care in a Dubai hospital with seriously high blood clot levels.

"I collapsed in my room and my parents, whom I'd rung when I was feeling bad, got someone to come in. After being taken to hospital it was another day before I woke up and four months before I was back to full-strength."

This time he was spending the rest of the day waiting to see if Woods or anybody else could top his 10-under-par halfway total of 134 in the £1million event.

As playing partners Woods and Bjorn set off again for their second rounds, now two behind rather than two in front, Davis held a one-stroke advantage over Welshman Bradley Dredge, Argentina's Angel Cabrera and Indian Jeev Singh.

Lee Westwood, starting his defence of the European number one title he claimed from seven-time winner Colin Montgomerie last year, was only one further back - and so was Ian Woosnam, whose last victory was nearly four years ago.

Davis resumed on the back nine and after turning in a three-under 34 he then covered the short front nine in 31, grabbing birdies at the second, third, fifth and eighth.

Meanwhile, Mark McNulty stayed in contention after surviving the threat of a two-stroke penalty.

The 47-year-old Zimbabwean, already the winner of the South African Open this season, was among 42 players who had to complete their first rounds this morning following Thursday's two-hour fog delay.

He finished with a six-under-par 66 to be in joint third place at that time.

After escaping a two shot penalty by hitting a tree with his swing, McNulty then had to start his second round immediately. With four holes to go was seven under in a group which also contained Cambridge's Russell Claydon.

Of all the players in the field nobody is keener to do well this week than the burly Claydon, who lost his tour card last season by finishing 125th on the Order of Merit and then failed to win it back at the qualifying school.

Now a member of the tour's Board of Directors, Claydon is playing in the event only thanks to a sponsor's invitation last month and his opening 67 contained an eagle two on the 475-yard sixth, where he sank a 185-yard six-iron.

"I was chuffed to bits when I was given the chance to play here," he said. "At the end of last year I put my clubs away for 10 weeks because I needed to clear my head.

"I'm in the next two tournaments as well, but after that I just don't know. I've written off letters and am waiting to hear."

Winning on Sunday would not only earn Claydon £166,660, but also give him a tour card again for the next two seasons.

Westwood was among the 42 back at the course at first light to finish off the first round, birdying two of the last three holes for a 66.

Woosnam finished with a bogey for a 68 and seven-under total and when Westwood came to the same hole, the 463-yard ninth, he drove into sand and from there missed the green so wildly that his ball finished on the top tier of the hospitality tent.

He was able to drop without penalty, but still bogeyed it as well and, round in 70 for the second round, he slipped to eight under.