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Friday, 27 January 2012
Thorbjorn Olesen  (Getty Images)
Thorbjorn Olesen (Getty Images)
Thorbjørn Olesen carded a brilliant five under par 67 to lead the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, but the 22 year old Dane has a host of big names right behind him going into the weekend.

Most notably another 22 year old, Rory McIlroy, promised never to make the same mistake again after a two shot penalty cost him a share of the halfway lead.

Northern Ireland's US Open Champion would have been alongside Olesen but for brushing sand away from his line on the ninth hole of his second round.

That would have been all right if it had been on the green, but he was six feet off the putting surface and World Number One Luke Donald instantly brought it to his attention.

"I wasn't thinking clearly and just made a very stupid mental mistake," McIlroy said following a level par 72 that left him tied for fourth on five under par and part of a group which also included Tiger Woods.

Asked if he did not know the rule or just had a loss of concentration he added: "I think it was a little bit of both - first week back as well.

"Luke said 'Don't think you can do that' and I was like 'Oh yeah, I can't, can I?'

"It happens and you just have to take it on the chin.

"There was so much sand in my line I didn't even think about it. I'll definitely not do it again."

McIlroy certainly did not blame Donald for pointing it out and remembered what happened to Padraig Harrington in the same event last year.

The Irishman shot an opening 65, but then was disqualified after an eagle-eyed television viewer spotted that his ball had moved a fraction on a green.

The rule was subsequently changed, but on this incident McIlroy said: "It's a bit of a weird rule. You can move a loose impediment like a divot out of your line. You can't move sand.

"Not a weird rule, but a tricky rule. That's the same penalty as hitting the ball out of bounds. It's tough, but the rules are the rules and we've got to play by them.

"I'm sure Luke was put in an awkward position there, but he had to say it. If I was in his position I would have said the same thing.

"It's fine. I have a hundred more tournaments to play, so it's not life-and-death out there."

While Donald remained deep in the pack on one under with a 72, Woods is right in the thick of things heading into the weekend.

He is going for a second successive victory after more than two barren years and for a while it looked as if he might even catch World Number 171 Olesen.

“I hit it pretty close and holed some good putts,” said Olesen, who chipped in at the 12th as he reached seven under par despite a bogey at the last.

“I had a few bad shots here and there on the back nine but I saved a lot of them. It's a bit of a shame to finish with a bogey but I played really well, so that's good.”

Woods was tied for second after birdies at the 11th, 12th and 15th, but bogeyed the next after driving into rough.

He was happy enough after his 69, though, and certainly putted better than he had in his opening 70.

"I thought I played well today," he said.

"I feel like I'm swinging well and a lot of things that Sean (coach Sean Foley) and I have been working on are starting to feel very comfortable.

"I've grown to understand what he wants me to do and how my body is going to do those things and produce the numbers he wants me to produce." The pair have been together almost 18 months now.

Lee Westwood survived the cut with two strokes to spare despite a neck problem that he has been battling with since Christmas.

At three over with six to play the World Number Two looked in trouble, but he produced a hat-trick of birdies.

Before going off for treatment he said: "This is the first time I've played three days in a row since it started.

"The pain goes down into my elbow and it feels like somebody is driving a needle in there."

Asked if there was any possibility of him withdrawing during the round he added: "If I'd hit it in the long rough I might have had to think about it, but hopefully I'll be ok tomorrow."

Defending champion Martin Kaymer, winner of the title three of the past four years, did crash out on six over and Colin Montgomerie (76), Open Champion Darren Clarke (81) and South African Branden Grace, winner the last two weeks on home soil, failed to make it through either.

Olesen still has a host of stars snapping at his heels, but he was a runner-up three times in his rookie season last year.

He leads by a shot from McIlroy's fellow Ulsterman Gareth Maybin and Italian teenager Matteo Manassero, who shot a best-of-the-week 65.

Tied with Woods and McIlroy, who will also play together in the third round, are Scot Paul Lawrie, England's Robert Rock and Richard Finch, Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Gonnet and Swede Robert Karlsson.

Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington are among those one further back.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1ROCK, RobertENG18-13
2MCILROY, RoryNIR18-12
T3MCDOWELL, GraemeNIR18-11
T3BJÖRN, ThomasDEN18-11
T3WOODS, TigerUSA18-11
T6MANASSERO, MatteoITA18-10
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