Dubai, United Arab Emirates (SportsNetwork.com) - Defending champion Henrik Stenson fired a 6-under 66 on Friday and moved two strokes clear of the field after two rounds of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
Stenson, who hasn't won since claiming this title last year, finished 36 holes at 10-under-par 134.
The Swede played the back nine in 4-under par to break through a crowded leaderboard. Seven different players had a piece of the lead at different times during round two.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy scrambled to a 2-under 70 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. He was joined in second place at minus-8 by Danny Willett (67) and Richie Ramsay (69).
Rafael Cabrera-Bello fired an 8-under 64, the low round of the day by two strokes. He jumped into a tie for fifth place at 7-under 137 with Justin Rose (66), Kristoffer Broberg (67), Thorbjorn Olesen (70) and Shane Lowry (71).
Rose was 4-over par after six holes in the opening round, but has gone 11- under par since with 13 birdies and two bogeys.
Stenson got off to a quick start with birdies on the first and second to move within one of the lead. He faltered to a bogey on the par-3 fourth, but came right back with a birdie at the fifth.
The 38-year-old ran off four straight pars from the sixth, then birdied the 10th to join McIlroy, Cabrera-Bello and Rose at minus-7.
Stenson converted a 5-footer for birdie at the 13th to move one stroke clear of Cabrera-Bello, Rose, Willett and McIlroy. Stenson rolled in a 10-foot birdie chance at the 16th to join Ramsay, who birdied the 15th, at 9-under.
At the par-5 closing hole, Stenson made birdie to post 10-under.
"There's still a lot of golf to play and I'm really happy with how I closed this round. Around the 12th hole, I felt like I was running out of steam," Stenson admitted. "It was difficult mentally from there on. I had to really focus hard and drag myself over the finish line."
McIlroy birdied the first to move to minus-7, but parred 10 in a row from the second. After tripping to a bogey at the 12th, McIlroy birdied 14 and 15. He stumbled to a 3-putt bogey on the 16th, but atoned for that mistake with a birdie at 17 and scrambled to save par at 18 after finding water off the tee.
"I'm in a good position and there is a lot of golf left. I've definitely been in worse positions after two rounds and still won," stated McIlroy, who hasn't played in the last six weeks. "It could have been worse, but it probably could have been a little better. I definitely didn't have it like I did yesterday."
Willett had five birdies, two bogeys and a par through eight holes. After four pars in a row from the eighth, Willett briefly grabbed a piece of the lead with a birdie at the 13th. He birdied the last for the second day in a row to grab a share of second place.
Ramsay had two birdies and a bogey on the front nine. He birdied the 10th to join McIlroy, Stenson, Rose and Cabrera-Bello at minus-7. Ramsay dropped a shot at 11th to fall one back.
The Scotsman drained a 20-footer for eagle at the 14th and followed with a 4- foot birdie putt at 15. Ramsay was suddenly alone in the lead at minus-9. He coughed up a shot at 16 and closed with a pair of pars to share second place.
NOTES: Stenson, who has never successfully defended a title in his career, owns the 36-hole lead for the 10th time on the European Tour ... He won two of the last three times he was in this position, and four times overall ... Lowry had a hole-in-one on the par-3 13th.