Abu Dhabi - Justin Rose went three shots clear
at the top of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship leaderboard on Friday
at the start of a season he hopes will see him win his first major.
world No 5 from England carded a second round, three-under 69 in
perfect morning playing conditions, to go with the 67 he fired the
previous day in the face of blustery afternoon crosswinds.
Dhabi is 32-year-old Rose's first tournament since early December when
he closed with a course record 62 at nearby Dubai in finishing second to
world No 1 Rory McIlroy in the season-ending World Tour Championship.
He was quick though to douse expectations of going one better here.
look at the big picture and if I live and die by this result, it gets
in the way of the rest of the season," he said. "I'm looking to build
and build. So whatever comes out of this week, I will use it to make it a
Starting at the the 10th, Rose hit a superb approach to the 16th and tapped in from two feet for a birdie.
had other occasions at the 18th and first, and finally grabbed his
second birdie of the day at the par-five second where he went in from
A missed eight-footer, coming back from a chip out of
greenside rough, spelled bogey for him at the next, but he got back to
seven under for the tournament by sinking a 15-foot birdie putt at the
short fourth hole.
Rose stayed at seven under with a run of four
pars, before an approach to two feet at the last brought him in with a
69, setting the pace in the clubhouse as the afternoon groupings started
Playing alongside Rose, British Open champion Ernie Els had a 73 to stay in contention at level par.
third member of the grouping had been defending champion Robert Rock,
but, following a poor 76 on Thursday, the Englishman pulled out, citing
an unspecified illness.
Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who had shared
the overnight lead with Rose at five under was in the afternoon
groupings, the same as the two top-ranking players in the world, McIlroy
and Tiger Woods.
Donaldson's first tour win at the Irish Open six
months ago in his 255th Tour start propelled him into the world top 50
and the biggest reward for that is that he will make his Masters debut
Colin Montgomerie's disappointing week continued. Three
days after losing out to Paul McGinley for the captaincy of the European
Ryder Cup team, he fired a 74 and at six over looked sure to miss the
Woods ended Thursday at level par after a wild round that
included four birdies and as many bogeys, while McIlroy, playing for the
first time in competition with his new Nike clubs, was at three over
and facing a battle to make the cut.
The American had a dismal
start with three bogeys in the first four holes to slump to three over,
while McIlroy was not much better, dropping a shot at the fourth to fall
to four over.
The third member of that grouping - three-times
winner in Abu Dhabi Martin Kaymer - birdied three of the first four
holes to get to four under for the tournament.