Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Richard Sterne managed a 2- under 70 on Friday and remained atop the leaderboard after two rounds of the Dubai Desert Classic.
Sterne, who opened with a 62, finished two rounds at 12-under-par 132. He is searching for his sixth European Tour title.
Thorbjorn Olesen, who shared second in Abu Dhabi, fired a 6-under 66 to jump into a tie for second place at minus-11. He was joined there by Stephen Gallacher (70) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).
Chris Doak (69), Maximilian Kieffer (68) and Andreas Harto (67) share fifth place at 10-under-par 134 on the Majlis course at Emirates Golf Club.
Sergio Garcia (67) is among three players tied for eighth, while last week's winner Chris Wood (68) and Paul Casey (70) are among nine players that share 11th at 8-under 136.
Sterne got off to a quick start with a birdie on the first. However, he faltered to a bogey on No. 4 to slip back to 10-under.
After five pars in a row, Sterne birdied the par-5 10th for the second day in a row. He moved into the lead at minus-12 with his second birdie in two days at the par-5 13th.
The South African tripped to a bogey at 14 to fall back into a share of the lead. At the par-5 closing hole, Sterne 2-putted from the back fringe for birdie and the second-round lead.
"The course was a lot tougher with the wind and the greens definitely firmed up a bit. I think it's going to be quite tricky coming to the weekend," Sterne said. "There's a lot of guys bunched up and you're going to have to play pretty well to be there on Sunday."
Olesen flew into contention with a fast start. He played the back nine first and birdied the first four holes to jump to minus-nine.
The 23-year-old ran off six straight pars from the 14th. Olesen birdied the second and seventh to move to 11-under. He parred the final two holes to end there.
"I'm hungry for more wins. I want to win twice this season," Olesen said. "That's my main goal, so the quicker I can get the first one the better."
Gallacher also started on the back nine and got going with a birdie on No. 11. He stumbled to bogeys at 12 and 13 to slip back to minus-8.
The Scotsman got those strokes back with birdies at 17 and 18. On the front side, Gallacher posted eight pars and a birdie on the par-4 second.
Fleetwood posted two birdies on both the front and back nines.
"It's just nice to be up there with all these great names," stated Fleetwood. "I felt fine. I'd rather be there than anywhere else."
NOTES: Sterne's last tour win was at the start of the 2009 season in South Africa ... This is the first time Sterne has had the second-round lead on the European Tour ... The cut line fell at 3-under-par 141 with 71 players making it to the weekend ... Among those that missed the cut were Thomas Bjorn, Ben Curtis, Anders Hansen, Colin Montgomerie, Edoardo Molinari and Paul McGinley.