Rory McIlroy heads the field by one shot after carding an eight-birdie 64

Rory McIlroy shot a eight-under-par 64 to take a one-shot halfway lead at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. McIlroy was fast out of the blocks with three birdies in his first five holes. He drove the 351-yard 2nd but narrowly missed the eagle putt, and on the 5th he missed an eagle putt, but this time from 25ft.

Further birdies came at 10 and 11 before he finished well with three consecutive birdies. Twenty-four of Rory McIlroy’s last 28 European Tour rounds have been in the 60s, with the four exceptions being two 70s, a 71 and a 73.

McIlroy’s first professional victory came in the Dubai Desert Classic of 2009, so the Northern Irishman knows what it takes to win here. But so does Stephen Gallacher, who has won the last two editions of the Dubai Desert Classic. Gallacher is in contention for a hat-trick as he is only two back at 11 under par, in a five-way tie for 5th after a strong finish to his round brought him four birdies over his last six holes.

“I’m delighted with the way I’ve played. That was the best I’ve played out here I think,” said the Scotsman afterwards. That is some statement by someone with his record here – a tenth of all the prize money he has won in his career has been from the Dubai Desert Classic.

On the first day Rory McIlroy found only five fairways but still shot 66. Today Marc Warren also only found five fairways, but went one better than McIlroy with a 65. “It was very good from the fairways but scrappier than I would have wanted off the tees. In Abu Dhabi I drove the ball really well. I improved my iron play last week and I am giving myself lots of chances,” said last week’s runner-up in Qatar.

But the lowest round of the day, and this Dubai Desert Classic so far, was by Morten Madsen who had seven birdies and an eagle and only 21 putts in his 63.

Omega Dubai Desert Classic Round 2 leaderboard