Dengue fever could derail McIlroy quest

 

Dubai

Rory McIlroy's eventful season has taken yet another twist after medics informed him he may have contracted Dengue fever.

The 22-year-old will visit the doctor this evening following blood tests which showed the reason for the fatigue which could ruin his hopes of winning his first Order of Merit title.

After shooting a 71 in a second round which saw him bogey the final two holes, McIlroy revealed he had been told his "platelet count and my white blood cell count are low". This made his doctor suspect the tropical disease which is carried by mosquitoes and which McIlroy probably picked up in the Far East last month. The infection can be life-threatening.

"The doctor said it was a mild case, or it could have been food poisoning or been bacterial," said McIlroy. "Whatever it is, I don't have it any more; it's just the lasting effects. My immune system is down and my body is taking more time to recover than it usually would."

McIlroy is clearly desperate to put away his sticks and the good people of Thailand should resign themselves to be missing his superstar presence at their national championship next week. In the summer, McIlroy signed a deal to play in Bangkok for a sum believed to be in excess of £300,000 and since then the anticipation levels over there have been rising.

"To be honest I am ready for the season to be done," said the Ulsterman, who is on his 11th week away from Northern Ireland. So with two days left of the golfing year which changed his life the urgency is obvious. What will it take to stage the perfect finale and leave with the near £1m Race to Dubai jackpot? After yesterday, plenty.

After all, Luke Donald has a big hitter in his corner. Indeed, in Alvaro Quiros he not only has the Sonny Liston of golf, but a Spaniard who quite fancies delivering a knockout blow to young McIlroy's chance.

The Ulsterman needs to win to have any chance of overhauling Donald and, despite sharing the lead with four holes of his second round remaining, he signed off last night five off Quiros's pace. That had plenty to do with McIlroy's four-six finish and Quiros closing out three-three-three, with an eagle on the par-five 18th. The 64 equalled the course record, and its quality was further highlighted by the fact it was two shots better than any other round yesterday. Quiros is a slugger by rhythm and by nature.

"Rory and Luke are not the only two players in the tournament," said Quiros, looking for a Dubai double after winning the Desert Classic in February. "The rest of us are trying to spoil the party. This is good otherwise the competition would not be as stiff."

There may even be a touch of revenge in his gatecrashing. Last week in Hong Kong, Quiros entered the last round three clear of McIlroy – and ended up losing by five.

With Donald hurtling up to tied 12th with three finishing birdies to close, McIlroy's hopes do not seem as tantalising as they did after his first-round 66. "I have an uphill battle," he said after four birdies and three bogeys left him on seven-under, in a tie for third. "But it is still possible. I just have to bide my time."

In truth, he could produce heroics to peg back Quiros, the longest driver on the European Tour, and still concede the Harry Vardon Trophy to Donald. The manner in which the Englishman strode into the clubhouse suggested a champion who has worked out the route to victory. On Thursday night he contacted his long-time coach Pat Goss who had noticed on the coverage, the speed of his pupil's swing in a disappointing 72 which featured him taking unplayables on two consecutive holes.

"I was getting a little bit rushed, starting the swing with my legs too much and not being patient enough," said Donald. "It was still a struggle today ... but in terms of my mental approach for the next couple of days I think those birdies at the end were huge."

At last the putts consented to behave as they have all season for Donald. Two 15-footers and a 10-footer bolstered his confidence. "It was nice to find a little touch on the greens," said the 34-year-old. "That will be key this weekend. I would say there is nervous excitement. I'm looking forward to it, but it's going to be a tough challenge."

Donald is determined to ensure his own destiny. "It would be foolish of me to rely on Rory not winning," said the world No 1. "I know what's at stake. It's a big deal to me. I will use those nerves to my advantage."

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