Rory McIlroy must find top gear to win Dubai race
Rory McIlroy is revved up and aiming to go through the gears to be crowned Europe's number one.
McIlroy felt he was stuck "somewhere between third and fourth gear" after a second round of 68 in the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai left him eight under par, four shots behind leader Andy Sullivan but crucially ahead of Race to Dubai rivals Justin Rose and Danny Willett by one and two shots respectively.
McIlroy is hoping to be crowned European number one for the third time in four years as former supermarket shelf-stacker Sullivan claimed the halfway lead.
The season finale is worth £5.2million - the first prize is £875,000 - and a £4million bonus pool will be shared between the top 15 players on the Race to Dubai.
McIlroy has a lead of just 1,613 points over Willett in the Race to Dubai, with Rose more than 600,000 points further back and needing to finish second or better to overtake his Ryder Cup team-mate.
Even a victory would not be enough for Rose if McIlroy was outright second.
"I'm treating it like a normal event because I'm just here to win and I know if I win, then everything else will take care of itself," McIlroy said.
"I'm not quite performing at the highest levels I would like to.
"I'm hitting it well. I feel like my putting's getting better. I still missed a few chances but I scrambled well. All facets of my game are pretty much there, it's just a matter of being a little more efficient, taking advantage of the par fives a bit better.
"I just have to try and put another solid round in and give myself a chance on Sunday."
Playing alongside McIlroy, Emiliano Grillo carded eight birdies in a flawless 64, the lowest round of the week which put him just one off the pace, to maintain the form which saw him win the Web.com Tour Championship and Frys.com Open in the space of a fortnight last month.
Second round leader Sullivan, from Nuneaton, is enjoying his moment in the sun after spending two years stacking shelves in Asda to fund his golf.
"If you ask them they'll probably say I was only there for about six months because I was asleep in the changing room half the time," joked Sullivan.
"I had to go in at five in the morning and finish at 10 so I could play golf, so a few times I turned up with a bit of a hangover, seeing as I had to work on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
"Working in Asda and having a little girl (Ruby was born in 2013) put a massive perspective on life. This is my dream and I've always wanted to do it."