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McIlroy sizzles on 'Pink Friday' to surge ahead at Dubai Desert Classic

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his tee shot at the par 5, third hole during the second round of the 2015 Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club on January 30, 2015 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Getty)

By Agencies

Rory McIlroy delivered a red-hot performance on ‘Pink Friday’ to be on cruise control heading into the penultimate round of the 2015 Omega Dubai Desert Classic with a one-shot lead at Emirates Golf Club.

One behind at the start of the second round, the world number one reeled off three birdies on the front nine and five on the back, including three on the bounce from the 16th in his flawless second round 64 to reach 14 under, one ahead of Scotland’s Marc Warren.

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell followed his opening 67 with a superb 65 to move into a tie for third on 12-under with defending champion Stephen Gallacher lurking a shot adrift along with the English trio of Lee Westwood, Andy Sullivan and Danny Willett and overnight leader Bernd Wiesberger.

On a day when fans turned up in huge numbers making Pink Friday to raise awareness about breast cancer a huge success, McIlroy was sensational in his charge to the summit.

It is the fifth time the Northern Irishman man has led or co-led after 36 holes in the ‘Major of the Middle East’ with his lone win coming in 2009.

“I couldn't ask for much more: bogey free, made birdies, and set myself up for a good run over the next couple of days,” said the four-time Major winner.

“I didn't play my best but I definitely improved from tee to green out there and was able to make some putts. It was a great round and I'm going to need something similar over the next couple of days to stay in the position that I'm in.

“I'm in a great position, obviously. But there are so many people that are close to the lead and it's so bunched up there,” said McIlroy, who drove the 351-yard par four second and two putted for birdie.

He also almost drove the 359-yard 17th, where a chip and putt secured birdie, and finished with a 12-footer for a closing hat-trick of gains.

McIlroy won three events in a row last season - the British Open, WGC–Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship - but finished runner-up in his next three, the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship, DP World Tour Championship and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“That’s not acceptable to me, especially with how I'm playing as I want to take advantage of that and I know I'm playing well enough to win,” he said.

“So there's no point in being satisfied with second, when you know you're playing well enough to lift trophies.”

Six years ago McIlroy returned home to Ireland with the gleaming ‘Coffee Pot’ trophy.

If he succeeds again this year he will arrive in Dublin on Monday staring at the likelihood of at least five days in the High Court when his dispute with a former management company will finally be resolved.

Earlier Warren, who pushed Branden Grace all the way in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, birdied two of his last three holes courtesy of putts from 25 feet at the seventh and 12 feet at the ninth for a round of 65.

“It seems to be going well,” said the Made in Denmark winner. “At this moment in time I'm comfortable in my swing and pretty free mentally, so I just hit the shots that I see: it's a nice place to be.”

Meanwhile, Morocco’s Ahmed Marjane, who reached four under after his first six holes, agonizingly missed out on making the cut, which fell at two under, by one shot.

Starting the day at two under, the 22-year-old prodigy from Rabat birdied the second and fifth, but three bogeys around the turn and one at 15th meant he needed to pick up two shots in the closing three holes.

He did birdie the last, hitting his approach to within three feet, but it was not enough at the end of the day. “I am proud of the way I played. It’s just that my approach shots were not close enough for reasonable birdie chances.

“I enjoyed every minute of playing alongside world-class golfers and my biggest takeaway from this tournament was an increased confidence in my ability to play golf at any level. I am improving with every tournament which makes me feel proud.”

Edouard Espana, the winner of the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Open, the second event on the 2014 MENA Golf Tour schedule, shot back-to-back 70s to join the top 75 who made it to the weekend.