Dubai, United Arab Emirates (SportsNetwork.com) - Rory McIlroy fired a second-round, 8-under 64 on Friday and that vaulted him into the outright lead heading into the weekend at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
McIlroy, who earned his first professional victory here back in 2009, finished 36 holes at 14-under-par 130 and he leads Marc Warren by one stroke. The No. 1 player in the world has nine career victories on the European Tour, including four last year, two of which were major championship wins at the British Open and PGA Championship.
"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. "Even though I'm in the lead, there's so many people still in with a chance if they shoot a good round tomorrow. I've just got to go out there, stay aggressive, stick to the game plan and try to make as many birdies as I can."
Warren also used a big day on Friday to move into sole possession of second place. Warren carded a 7-under 65 on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club and he is right behind McIlroy at 13-under. Graeme McDowell (65) and Seve Benson (66) are one shot further back at 12-under.
First-round leader Bernd Wiesberger shot a 3-under 69 in his second round and he is now tied for fifth with two-time defending champion Stephen Gallacher (67), Danny Willett (66), Lee Westwood (68) and Andy Sullivan (68).
McIlroy, who began his day two shots behind the leader Wiesberger, was consistent throughout his round and was able to finish with a string of birdies to take the outright lead.
After making a par at the first, the 25-year-old Ulsterman drained three birdies in a four-hole stretch on Nos. 2, 3 and 5. McIlroy finished up his front nine with four pars from No. 6 and he made the turn at 3-under.
There was still much more to come from McIlroy as he began the back side with a pair of birdies on 10 and 11 before another set of four pars from No. 12 preceded McIlroys strong finish.
With Warren leading at 13-under at the time, McIlroy still sat two shots behind. He then ran off three straight birdies from No. 16 and McIlroy's third straight birdie at the par-5 last put him in the lead at the end of two rounds.
"I couldn't ask for much more. Bogey free, made birdies and set myself up for a good run over the next couple days," McIlroy said. "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."
Warren used a hot start and a strong finish to take the lead before McIlroy caught him later on. Warren was even through three holes when he traded a birdie on 10 for a bogey on 12, but then he went on a big run by rattling off five birdies on his next six holes from No. 13.
After a pair of pars on one and two, Warren again traded a birdie on three for a bogey on four. He later finished things up with birdies on seven and nine to take the lead at the time.
McIlroy's compatriot McDowell, playing the back nine first like Warren, made three birdies on his opening nine at 10, 13 and 16. McDowell then poured in five birdies over six holes from No. 2 to go along with a bogey on No. 6.
Benson had a hot start with four birdies on his first five holes from No. 10. A double-bogey on No. 18 tripped Benson up a bit, but he responded with a birdie on four and three straight gains from six to finish his round just two shots back of McIlroy.
NOTES: Over his last 28 rounds on the European Tour, McIlroy has shot in the 60s 24 times. He is 117-under par in those 28 rounds ... McIlroy has finished runner-up in each of his last four professional starts dating back to last season. He also came in second at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship two weeks ago ... Warren's last victory was at the inaugural Made in Denmark last season. He has three total wins on tour ... Warren also finished runner-up at last week's Qatar Masters ... Julien Quesne was disqualified in the second round ... With the cut falling at 2-under 142, 75 players advanced to play the weekend.