Björn and McIlroy top star-studded leaderboard

10/02/2012 14:28:23
Thomas Bjorn  (Getty Images)
Thomas Bjorn (Getty Images)
Thomas Björn issued a timely reminder of what happened five months ago after joining Rory McIlroy in the halfway lead at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Northern Ireland's US Open Champion justified his position as favourite by adding a 65 to his first round 66 to reach 13 under par.

But 40 year old Bjorn has matched him shot-for-shot so far and now finds himself in a battle with not only the World Number Two, but also golf's third- and fourth-ranked players as well.

Martin Kaymer had the first hole-in-one of his life on the 186 yard seventh - his 16th - as he reached 11 under with a 67, while Lee Westwood's 65 for ten under included birdies on the last three holes.

"They are people capable of amazing things, but I won in Switzerland with those three on the leaderboard and that's not long ago," the Dane said.

Björn's victory in the Omega European Masters last September - his third of a season which totally re-ignited his career - came with a dazzling closing round of 62, his joint lowest of a European Tour career that goes back 16 years.

He beat second-placed Kaymer by four, third-placed McIlroy by five and sixth-placed Westwood by six.

"It's very easy to get impressed by the way they play the game, but you've got to go out and focus on your own game."

Björn also has the memory of beating Tiger Woods head-to-head on the Emirates course in 2001 with a 22 under par total which still stands as the tournament record.

McIlroy, though, is back at the scene of his first professional victory three years ago and in his last eight events - a run that started in Switzerland - he has only once finished outside the top four.

The 22 year old overtook first round leader Rafael Cabrera-Bello by covering the back nine in four under 33, chipping in at the 359 yard 17th.

For the second day running he then missed an eagle chance of under ten feet on the 18th, but after failing to hole a five foot birdie chance on the first he then picked up more strokes on the third, sixth and eighth.

"I feel like I played a lot better," said McIlroy, who delivered a number of his trademark towering iron shots with pinpoint precision. "I started off very solidly and just kept picking up birdies along the way.

"I'm a lot more confident off the tee and am reading the greens better. It puts me in a great position and I'm very excited for the weekend."

Cabrera-Bello's 69 left him in third place only one off the pace, while Kaymer shares fourth spot with Scotland's Scott Jamieson and Frenchman Gregory Bourdy.

"Now I'm part of the hole-in-one family," Kaymer said after an eight iron shot that won a watch not for himself, but for his physio because of a bet they have every week.

It was the second ace of the week. Scot Stephen Gallacher won a car for his at the 190 yard 15th in his opening 69 and by adding a 65 he is alongside Westwood and Kaymer's fellow German Marcel Siem in seventh place.

Former winner Henrik Stenson's 64 was the round of the day, while Abu Dhabi winner Robert Rock improved six strokes on his opening 73 to stand four under.

Colin Montgomerie, Tom Lewis and defending champion Alvaro Quiros are among those on the same mark, while Sunday's Commercialbank Qatar Masters champion Paul Lawrie is one further back.

The cut fell at one under and so four more previous holders of the title - Mark O'Meara, Fred Couples, David Howell and Jiménez - made it through with nothing to spare.

As did John Daly after a 72 that began with him taking six on the long tenth and then a quadruple bogey eight at the 467 yard 12th.

The American came back from that with seven birdies to show that his fourth place finish last weekend was no fluke.