Rory McIlroy makes sloppy start to second round in Dubai
Rory McIlroy gave his rivals plenty of reasons for optimism after a scrappy start to his second round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Friday.
McIlroy was back to his brilliant best as he posted a sparkling nine-under-par 63 on Thursday, the former world number one carding seven birdies and an eagle at Emirates Golf Club, the scene of his first European Tour title in 2009.
That gave him the overnight lead and the Northern Irishman was still on top of the leaderboard when he made his way to the first tee alongside Tiger Woods and defending champion Stephen Gallacher.
But the 24-year-old promptly dropped his first shot of the tournament after missing the fairway with his drive and then three-putting from long range after his approach ran off the side of the green.
Perhaps frustrated by that start, McIlroy opted to hit driver on the short par-four second after Gallacher and Woods laid up with long-irons, but this time carved it well right into the trees and was lucky to have a clear pitch onto the green.
After making par there - Gallacher holed from 10ft for birdie - another bad drive followed on the par-five third and McIlroy was again fortunate his ball rolled down a slope in the waste area to give him a shot towards the green.
The world number six found a greenside bunker with his approach but then played a superb long bunker shot to four feet and holed the birdie putt to get back to nine under par.
That was good enough for a one-shot lead over clubhouse leaders Damien McGrane and Danny Willett, Willett carding the lowest round of the day so far with a superb 65.
European number one Henrik Stenson was among those another shot back on seven under, the Swede returning a flawless 67 as he continued his recovery from being three over par after five holes on Thursday.
"I think there is still a little way to go but today was the best I have putted for a long, long time," said Stenson, who became the first man to win the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in the same season in 2013.
"I was threatening on every putt and kept the score together with no bogeys which is always a good sign."
Stenson added on Sky Sports: "I did what I could and five under is never a bad score round here. Hopefully I won't be too far behind at the end of the day."
Woods had matched McIlroy's birdie from sand on the third to move to five under par and was yet to drop a shot this week despite some wayward tee shots on Thursday.