Dubai: Rory McIlroy hit wedge into 5 feet for birdie on the 18th hole for a 2-under 70 to regain the outright lead in the Dubai Desert Classic on Friday.
The chief challenge for McIlroy came from an American — but it wasn’t Tiger Woods.
Brooks Koepka, who earned his European Tour card last year by winning three times on the Challenge Tour, made seven birdies against no bogeys for a 65 that left him one shot behind McIlroy going into the weekend.
Woods, meanwhile, hit only four fairways and had to rely on some key putts to salvage a 73. He was in a tie for 44th, eight shots out of the lead.
McIlroy was at 11-under 133. He appeared to be in control, leading by three shots after his birdie at No. 10.
Danny Willett of England, who began his week by jumping out of a plane at 4,000 meters (13,000 feet), had a 65 and shared third place with Damien McGrane of Ireland (70) and Julien Quesne of France (70).
Henrik Stenson, who won the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup last year, had a 67 and was four shots behind.
Shiv Kapur flirted with danger as he dropped two bogeys in the last four holes, but still just about managed to make the halfway cut at two-under.
Kapur was the only Indian to fall inside the cut line as Jeev Milkha Singh (75-69) and Gaganjeet Bhullar (77-74) exited early from the tournament.
The 31-year-old Kapur looked well set at one point of time when he was four-under for the day after 13 and had avoided any bogeys till then.