From that point, their paths diverged rather quickly.
While McIlroy surged into contention at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship with a 66 that was fueled by his first hole-in-one as a professional, Fowler tumbled down the standings after a 3-over 75. At 2 under, he made the 36-hole cut on the number and now sits nine shots behind McIlroy and 11 shots off the pace set by Martin Kaymer.
Fowler was 2 under through seven holes - and 7 under overall - when his round unraveled on the par-5 eighth hole. A wayward tee shot landed in a desert bush off the fairway, and after a march back to the tee Fowler ultimately tapped in for a triple-bogey 8.
He was unable to regain any momentum from there, as his closing stretch included two more bogeys but no birdies. On a day when most of the field broke par, Fowler's 75 was better than only five players among the 125-man field.