February 11, 2011

Dubai Golf Tournament 2011

Rory McIlroy kept his hopes of ending a two-year European Tour winless drought alive with a four-under-par 68 for a one-stroke lead in the Dubai Desert Classic second round on Friday with Tiger Woods lurking.

The world number seven moved to an 11-under halfway total of 133 to be a shot clear of South African Thomas Aiken and Spain's Sergio Garcia who both carded 67s while Woods (137) roared into contention for a first title in 14 months with a 66.

The American world number recorded six birdies for his lowest round since December.

Twice champion Woods upstaged partners and the world's top two players Briton Lee Westwood (139) and German Martin Kaymer (140), the Englishman carding a 70 to Kaymer's 71.

"Being out this morning also meant we had some clean greens which was nice, and all three of us hit them perfect, and made a few putts," Woods told reporters.

McIlory's last European Tour win came in the same event, where the 21-year-old Briton led from start to finish, and the Ryder Cup player was not ruling out a similar outcome this time.

"I can't see any reason why I can't win wire-to-wire again," he said.

"I led all four rounds two years ago and that's the plan this year. I'll just keep shooting good scores and if I can do that then there's no reason why I can't beat that."

Two birdies on his closing four holes capped a fine round for the Northern Irishman who bogeyed the second hole.

Briton Steve Webster posted another 68 for a 136 total while Dane Anders Hansen (68), Briton Michael Hoey (67), Australia's Brett Rumford (68) and Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (69) were the other players level with Woods.

Garcia's return to form is a welcome boost for the 31-year-old who rose to world number two after capturing the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai in November 2008.

The Spaniard took a lengthy break from the game toward the later part of last year and Garcia admitted his confidence has been helped by the encouragement afforded him by fellow Spaniard and men's tennis number one Rafa Nadal.

Garcia said, "Rafa has been very helpful here and there."

"He doesn't give me any tips but it's mainly just checking up on how much he's doing and what I am doing, but it's good encouragement for me.

"He will say to me things like 'come on, I hope you have a good year and have a great week' and things like that."

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