Rafa Cabrera Bello birdied his final three holes to shoot a 6-under 66 Friday and take a two-stroke lead midway through second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The 28th-ranked Cabrera Bello followed up his opening-round 67 to move to 11 under, putting himself in a good position to end a winless run that stretches back almost five years.
Henrik Stenson, the first-round leader at 8 under, was among the afternoon starters.
Cabrera Bello has been a regular in top 10s in recent years — he had six of them in the 2016 season alone — and his consistency earned him a debut on the European team at the Ryder Cup last year. But his last win remains the Dubai Desert Classic in February 2012.
"A couple times I felt that maybe I made a few mistakes, that I have learned from them," said the Spaniard, who had seven birdies and one bogey. "Other times, I just felt that the other guys have outplayed me.
"I know I finished second or third many times but not all of them felt like losses. They felt like good comebacks to finish second or third. I feel like I'm close, but we will know soon."
Cabrera Bello wasn't the only Spaniard to chase down Stenson in the early wave, benefiting from bright sunshine and barely a breath of wind. Pablo Larrazabal, the 2014 champion in Abu Dhabi, shot a 67 and was second at 9 under.
Former top-ranked player Lee Westwood (69) and was in a group at 7 under.
American players Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler (both at even par) were other headline acts among the afternoon starters.