Stenson leads in Dubai title defense, Rory 2 back


Henrik Stenson hasn't won since he captured the DP World Tour Championship a year ago, but the Swede is in position to end his drought with a successful title defense. Here's how things look at the halfway point in Dubai, where Stenson holds a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Henrik Stenson (-10), Rory McIlroy (-8), Danny Willett (-8), Richie Ramsay (-8), Justin Rose (-7), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (-7), Shane Lowry (-7)

What it means: Stenson was 25 under on the Earth Course a year ago, and he has picked up right where he left off with rounds of 68 and 66. At 10 under, he holds the pole position but a weekend duel with McIlroy is shaping up as the Ulsterman takes home the Race to Dubai title that Stenson won a year ago.

Round of the day: Cabrera-Bello faced a significant deficit after a 1-over 73 in the opening round, but he bounced back in style with an 8-under 64 Friday. The Spaniard started his round with five straight birdies en route to an outward 30, then countered back-to-back bogeys with an eagle on the par-5 14th to move 35 spots up the standings.

Best of the rest: Stenson was one of five players to shoot 66 in the second round, as he carded seven birdies against just one bogey. After birdies on each of his first two holes, Stenson made the turn in 34 and played the back nine in 4 under, including a birdie on No. 16 followed by a two-putt birdie on the home hole.

Biggest disappointment: Argentina's Emiliano Grillo was only two shots back after an opening 68, but he fell well off the pace after a 3-over 75 in the second round. Grillo managed only two birdies on the day, playing his first four holes in 3 over and now trails Stenson by nine shots.

Main storyline heading into Saturday: Ramsay and Willett are capable players, but this could turn into a fight for the title between two of the world's best: Stenson and McIlroy, the last two winners of this event. With past success at Jumeirah Golf Estates to draw upon, both should keep the scores low this weekend - although keep an eye on Rose, who lurks just three shots back.

Shot of the day: Lowry was an overnight co-leader, but he struggled until he reached the par-3 13th The Irishman launched a 7-iron that bounced just in front of the hole before rolling in for an ace. Despite bogeys on three of his first four holes, the hole-in-one propelled Lowry to a 1-under 71 that kept him within shouting distance of Stenson.