McIlroy gains upper hand in Dubai
The European Tour title race looks set to go right to the wire after Rory McIlroy produced a fabulous nine-hole stretch on Thursday - just as Luke Donald was losing his way.
By coming home in just 30 shots for a six-under-par 66, McIlroy - who has to win the Dubai World Championship to have a chance of the circuit's number one spot - climbed into third place only two behind Swede Peter Hanson.
Even if the 22-year-old - still suffering from a virus and due to see a doctor again on Saturday after receiving blood test results - does win for the second week running, the Order of Merit crown will only be his if Donald finishes outside the top nine. The world number one, paired with McIlroy, is currently joint 26th following a level-par 72.
Donald - the first European to capture the PGA Tour money list title in America - said afterwards: "This is two shots better than the first round last year and I still finished ninth. You've got to find the positives."
However, McIlroy won the Hong Kong Open last Sunday with a closing 65 and feeling run down is not affecting his golf yet.
"To be honest, I'm sort of using it to my advantage in a way," said Northern Ireland's US Open champion.
"It's sort of taken the pressure off me. I'm not 100% and if it doesn't happen it doesn't happen, and there's nothing I can do about it.
"You can just go about your game and try and play as well as you can.
"I definitely don't feel invincible, but I feel like every time I tee it up I've got a good chance of shooting a good score."
Meanwhile, it was Hanson who actually played the best golf of the day. He equalled the course record set by Lee Westwood in winning the 2009 title and matched by Ross Fisher last year. He leads by a stroke from 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie.