McIlroy two back in Abu Dhabi after back-nine blitz


Red numbers were plentiful Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Here's how things look through two rounds in the U.A.E., where Craig Lee and Rafael Cabrera-Bello share the lead with a former world No. 1 close behind:

Leaderboard: Rafael Cabrera-Bello (-9), Craig Lee (-9), Danny Willett (-8), Rory McIlroy (-7), Thomas Bjorn (-7), Ricardo Gonzalez (-7)

What it means: After sharing the lead following an opening-round 67, Cabrera-Bello again sits atop the leaderboard after a 4-under 68 Friday. He's tied alongside Scotland's Lee, who seeks his first career European Tour win. It appears the man to watch, though, is McIlroy, who carded a 5-under 67 despite a double bogey on No. 6. The Ulsterman closed with five birdies on the back nine - four across his final six holes - and appears to be garnering momentum heading into the weekend.

Round of the day: After a 1-over 73 in the first round, Willett appeared in jeopardy of missing the 36-hole cut. The Englishman fired a bogey-free, 9-under 63 Friday, however, the lowest score of the week by two shots. His round included seven birdies in addition to an eagle at the par-5 eighth hole.

Best of the rest: Like Willett, Tommy Fleetwood was able to make it around Abu Dhabi Golf Club Friday without dropping a shot. The Englishman carded four birdies across a six-hole stretch from Nos. 4-9, and his round was highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 finishing hole. At 6 under, Fleetwood will enter the weekend three shots off the pace as he looks to follow up his tie for third at last week’s Volvo Golf Champions with a similar result.

Biggest disappointment: Though he entered the week as the highest-ranked player in the field, Henrik Stenson finally showed he was human and will miss the cut after rounds of 74-72. The Swede, who won both the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai to close 2013, struggled to create any momentum this week in the desert and carded just five birdies across 36 holes. At 2-over 146, he missed the cut by two shots in the only Desert Swing event he has yet to win.

Main storyline heading into Saturday: Several notable names were able bounce back Friday from mediocre opening rounds, including Phil Mickelson (73-70) and Sergio Garcia (76-68). While both will play the weekend, they're still looking up at McIlroy, who backed up a solid start with a second round that showed flashes of the talent that took him to world No. 1. He'll be the man to watch in Saturday's third round, though Bjorn is another notable name with a recent win to his credit who is very much in contention through 36 holes.