McIlroy moves into contention in Abu Dhabi

Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:13am EST
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(Reuters) - Rory McIlroy stormed into contention at the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi Championship, carding a second-round 67 to leave him two shots off the lead on Friday.

The former world number one covered the back nine in 31 to put him seven under par at the halfway stage and in the slipstream of joint leaders Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Craig Lee.

"I got a few putts to drop on the back nine which was nice and I feel like I have a great chance of winning," McIlroy, now ranked seventh, said on the European Tour website (

"It would be nice to win your first start of the season rather than your last start. It's exactly what I wanted. It's a great way to test your game under pressure. With a strong start to the year you can really get some momentum."

McIlroy, twice a major champion, won the Australian Open in December and his form is a far cry from 12 months ago when he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi after consecutive rounds 75.

The Northern Irishman's second round drew wholesome praise from British Open champion Phil Mickelson.

"The back nine was really impressive, a beautiful nine holes of golf," said the American five-times major winner, who carded 70 to lie one under and narrowly avoid missing the cut.

"He is really striking the ball well. His game looks really sharp and his driving was impeccable."

Scotland's Lee, looking for his first European Tour win, claimed a share of the lead with a second round 67 and put an upturn in his short game down to having an astroturf putting green installed in his front garden.   Continued...

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 15th hole during the Abu Dhabi Golf championship January 17, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah