ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Rory McIlroy birdied his last two holes to post a 5-under 67 and lie two shots off the lead two rounds into the Abu Dhabi Championship on Friday.
At 7 under overall in the European Tour event, McIlroy was rapt to be in contention for a second win in three tournaments. Playing partner Phil Mickelson was also happy, though in relief to make the cut by two shots at 1 under with a 70 after a first-round 73.
"I'm really glad I made the cut and I now have a chance over these next two days, because I kind of keyed in on something with my swing starting to feel much better," Mickelson said. "I really need these two days to get my game in shape."
Mickelson was impressed with McIlroy's form.
"His game looks really sharp and his driving was impeccable," Mickelson said of McIlroy.
Tied for the lead were Scotland's Craig Lee (67) and Spain's Rafa Cabrera-Bello (68) at 9 under, a stroke ahead of England's Danny Willett (63), who eagled the par-5 8th hole at National Course beside seven birdies.
McIlroy was sharing fourth with Argentina's Ricardo Gonzalez (66) and Denmark's Thomas Bjorn (70).
He was holding the end-of-2013 form that saw him come from behind and defeat Masters champion Adam Scott in the Australian Open in Sydney last month.
"It's a great position to be in, as I'm only a few off the lead, so I'm excited," McIlroy said.