DUBAI (Reuters) - World number one Rory McIlroy shrugged off a touch of desert sunstroke to join second-ranked Luke Donald and little-known Briton Marc Warren in a tie for the lead in the DP World Tour Championship second round on Friday.
Officials brought several tees forward at the European Tour’s season-ending event and it led to a rush of low-scoring even though the winds were fresher than they were 24 hours earlier.
McIlroy carded a solitary bogey, at the short fourth, as he powered his way to a five-under 67 for an 11-under total of 133.
Overnight leader Donald (68) did not drop a shot to par all day while playing partner Warren went one better with a 67 to clinch a two-ball pairing with McIlroy in Saturday’s third round.
Branden Grace (65) and Louis Oosthuizen (67), South African compatriots and close friends, were tied for fourth spot on 134.
“I didn’t feel great last night but was much better this morning and felt almost 100 percent out there on the course,” McIlroy told reporters at the Greg Norman-designed Earth course.
“I had a bit of a sore head last night. I guess it’s just us Irish and the skin not used to this sort of sun.”
The 23-year-old Northern Irishman said he received some tender loving care from his girlfriend, former world tennis number one Caroline Wozniacki, on Thursday evening.
”Caroline squeezed about five lemons into a glass and I took that,“ he explained. ”Then I had some vitamins and a mineral drink - it made me feel a little better.
“With the anti-doping (checks in golf) you can’t really take too much,” said McIlroy, who has already won the money-lists on both sides of the Atlantic this year.
Donald, who finished third here last year, is 27-under-par for his last five rounds in this tournament and is beginning to form a lasting affection for the Earth layout.
“I haven’t dropped a shot in the last 36 holes so I feel quite good about that,” he said. “I didn’t put myself in too much trouble today but when I did I was able to recover with the putter.”
Donald is looking for back-to-back victories after winning the Dunlop Phoenix event in Japan last week.
“When you are really trusting your swing like I am at the moment, I don’t think there is much doubt in your mind,” said the 34-year-old Englishman.
“There are two days to go in my season and I am ready to have a nice break and get home to spend some time with my family. It would be very nice to win the last event of the year and finish it off in some style.”
Warren, 31, without a victory since the 2007 Johnnie Walker Championship in his native Scotland, was pleased to be in such exalted company in Dubai.
“It’s nice to be the Scot in a pack with the Englishman and the Northern Irishman,” he said.
“It’s great to be in contention with guys like that. It’s a high-quality leaderboard and doesn’t get any better anywhere in the world.”
Sergio Garcia, competing this week for the first time since Europe’s Ryder Cup win in September, equaled the course record with a swashbuckling 64.
The Spaniard, who had laser eye surgery last month to correct astigmatism, collected only four pars all day in a rollercoaster round.
Garcia played the inward half without a regulation figure, notching two eagles, four birdies, two bogeys and a triple bogey at the par-four 16th to finish on 137.
”I wish I could explain that,“ he laughed. ”Everything was going well until the 12th...and all of a sudden I kind of lost it a little bit.
“On 16 I probably hit the worst shot I hit all day. I just didn’t commit to the shot I wanted to hit,” he said, referring to an eight-iron approach he dunked into water.
One of the day’s best performances came from Briton Danny Willett, who stormed home in 29 strokes to return a 65 for 136.
Editing by Mark Meadows