Abu Dhabi: Almost from nowhere, Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen has thrown himself into contention for his first European Tour win with a leading score of seven under par 137 (70, 67) at the halfway mark of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
World number 171 Olesen, 22, hit seven birdies to jump up from tied for ninth at the end of day one. Meanwhile, first day leaders Rory McIlroy and Robert Karlsson are both now tied for fourth still at five under, two shots off the lead, alongside seven others including a fast-climbing Tiger Woods (70, 69).
McIlroy dropped six shots — including a two-shot penalty on nine for brushing sand off the green — ruining what would have been his continued leadership with six birdies, to finish even par. Meanwhile, Woods made up three shots from day one, despite setbacks on three and 16.
Gareth Maybin, six under par 138 (68, 70), Jean-Baptiste Gonnet and Ricard Finch, both four under par 139, linger tied for second and fourth respectively.
Maybin shares his one-off-the-lead mantle with Matteo Manessero (73, 65) who made the day's biggest leap by climbing 54 places up the leaderboard thanks to a bogey-free second day crammed with seven birdies. With the cut made at three over par 147, big casualties include triple Falcon Trophy winner Martin Kaymer, Colin Montgomerie, Pablo Larrazabal and Darren Clarke.
Olesen said: "There's so many good guys in this event, so it's fantastic to be on top. We'll see at the end of the day how it is but I'm looking forward to the weekend. I'll just be trying to play as I did today. Try to hit the greens and see if I can roll some putts in and make a few birdies. Of course, win a tournament, thats my main goal.
"If Tiger plays well, he's unbeatable I think. But I'll just try to play my own game and try to be up there on Sunday and play well.
"For me it's very special. It's not many years ago I was watching them on TV. Of course it's special and I know it's tough, but I'm trying to keep playing my own game and do my best."
Elsewhere McIlroy said of his two-stroke penalty: "I made a mistake on nine when I brushed the sand off the green, I wasn't thinking clearly and [got] a penalty there. My ball was just six feet off the green and there was a lot of sand between my ball and the hole. I just brushed the sand and Luke [Donald] was like ‘I don't think you can brush sand off the fringe. It happens. You're going to get a bad deal every now and again, and just have to take it on the chin and try and come back as quick as possible. Considering everything that happened out there, today is a decent score."