McIlroy Maintains Edge in Dubai; Woods Shoots 73

Though not quite as hot as he was in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic when he fired a 9-under 63 for the 18-hole lead, Rory McIlroy retained his spot atop the leaderboard in the European Tour event at Emirates Golf Club.

The 24-year-old Northern Irishman posted a 2-under 70 to reach 11-under 133, a stroke clear of American Brooks Koepka (65) and three ahead of England's Danny Willett (65), Ireland's Damien McGrane (70) and Julien Quesne of France (70).

Playing for the second straight day with Tiger Woods and Scotland's Stephen Gallacher, McIlroy got off to an inauspicious start with a bogey on the first hole. But he settled down the rest of the front nine with three birdies to make the turn in 2-under 33.

But McIlroy really didn't get untracked all day, posting two birdies and a pair of bogeys on the home half. Still, the Ulsterman came away with some positive vibes. "It was nice to birdie the last and at least give myself a one-shot lead going into tomorrow," McIlroy said.

"I will just go back tonight and sort of regroup and realize I am still leading the tournament. I was more frustrated on the back nine, as the back nine is where you want to build your score after playing the harder front nine."

After starting with a promising 68, Woods - who's trying to join Ernie Els as the only three-time winner of the tournament - slipped into a tie for 44th with a 1-over 73 that included two birdies and three bogeys.

Woods quipped later that because of his wayward drives he got to experience the full Emirates course. "I was on so many parts of the golf course today that I got to meet so many people, signed so many autographs out there and gave a lot of balls away," Woods joked with the crowd. "Seriously, I was just hitting it sideways."

In general, the top-ranked player in golf had an off-day. He said he putted well, but too many of his strokes on the short grass were from 40 and 50 feet, which is "not exactly the best thing."

"I just didn't hit it close enough and didn't hit it well," Woods added, echoing his comments from last Saturday when he shot a 79 at Torrey Pines to miss the secondary cut at the PGA Tour's Farmers Insurance Open. "I struggled with it and had a bad warm-up, as well. Just one of those days."

The weekend cut was set at 2-under 142. Among those heading home is Javier Ballesteros - the son of the late Seve Ballesteros, who recorded rounds of 74 and 71. Also missing the cut were Americans Peter Uihlein (143), John Daly (144) and Mark O'Meara (144).

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