World number two Rory McIlroy got exactly what he wanted to keep his hopes of a successful title defence alive in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
McIlroy completed a second round of 68 more than an hour before the leaders teed off and headed to the beach hoping not to be facing an insurmountable deficit over the last 36 holes.
And although Sergio Garcia and Francesco Molinari both shot 67 to share the halfway lead on nine under par, McIlroy had not given up hope of coming from eight shots behind to claim a fourth win of the season.
“If I’m within eight or nine shots going into the weekend, I still feel like I have a decent chance,” said McIlroy, whose opening 75 was his first over-par score in 29 rounds in the European Tour’s season finale, an event he has won twice and never finished worse than 11th in in seven appearances.
“Thursday was just one of those days. I was mentally very flat, still in holiday mode and not quite switched on to what I needed to do. I sort of turned it around today and hopefully can do the same over the weekend.”
Garcia carded six birdies and one bogey in his 67, which also featured a brilliant par save on the 12th after driving into a bush and being forced to take a penalty drop.
“I was fortunate a guy from the crowd found it for me and I was able to drop outside the bush,” the Ryder Cup star said.
“I hit a really good shot from there with a seven iron and made a really nice putt. I had a good feeling on that putt. I felt like I was going to make it and it was one of those career fours.”