Dubai - Ernie Els rolled back the years to shoot a seven-under par 65 round and move to within one shot of the leaders at the halfway stage of the $3.25 million Dubai Desert Classic on Friday.
The 49-year-old South African, who last won at the Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club in 2005, is on 11-under par 133, just one behind joint leaders Bryson DeChambeau (66) of the US and Australian Lucas Herbert (63).
A three-time major champion, Els' previous tournament win came at the 2013 BMW International Open. But seven birdies and an eagle in the second round raised visions of a possible 29th European Tour title.
Els, whose first of his three Desert Classic wins came 25 year ago in 1994, was under no illusions regarding the task at hand if he is to lift the trophy on Sunday.
"You've got to keep going. I think these youngsters, they're going to keep firing birdies. I think the course might get a little bit tougher because the greens are going to get a little firmer and quicker, but these kids can really play," he said.
"I'm just happy with the first two days. Still a lot of work to be done."
DeChambeau, the highest ranked player in the field this week at number five in the world, made two stunning birdies from the desert on the third and the eighth hole in his 66, which also included three bogeys. The round may have taken him to the top of the leaderboard, but he was still far from happy with his ball-striking.
"I thought after yesterday getting it around without making a bogey was awesome, but today was even more impressive with three bogeys on the card, still shooting six-under," said the 25-year-old, who is searching for his first win away from American soil.
"I was happy about that. Unfortunately, again, just didn't have the right sensations ... over shots. I just felt uncomfortable on a lot of them, and consequently, my ball-striking is not at my best."
The fast-improving Herbert is yet to win as a professional, but the 24-year-old served notice last year with seven top-10s in finishing 47th in the European Tour's Race to Dubai. On Friday, he got off to a hot start with an eagle on his first hole and birdies on his next two.
"I sort of kept a bit of an eye on the scores and everyone is making those numbers around the back nine. There's some good birdie opportunities," said Herbert, who sank a 40-feet putt on the ninth (his last) to save par.
"I knew I just had to take advantage of them straight out of the gate. I was like seven-under through about 11 holes, and it just felt like I was cruising."
Spain's Alvaro Quiros, winner here in 2013, shot a 64 and was tied for second with Els, with five players a further shot back at 10-under par. That group included the defending champion Haotong Li (67) of China and qualifier Callum Shinkwin (68) of England.
Among the big names to miss the weekend's action was 2007 champion Henrik Stenson, who's 142 after two rounds was one shot away from the cut.
Leading second round scores in the $3.25million Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Friday at the par-72 Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club (GBR & IRL unless stated/Am denotes amateur):
132 - Lucas Herbert (AUS) 69-63, Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 66-66
133 - Alvaro Quiros (ESP) 69-64, Ernie Els (RSA) 68-65
134 - Matt Wallace 70-64, Li Haotong (PRC) 67-67, Callum Shinkwin 66-68, Matthieu Pavon (FRA) 66-68, Jason Scrivener (AUS) 67-67
135 - George Coetzee (RSA) 70-65, Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR) 69-66, Kim Koivu (FIN) 67-68, Matthew Fitzpatrick 65-70
136 - Jorge Campillo (ESP) 69-67, Thomas Detry (BEL) 68-68, Adri Arnaus (ESP) 68-68, Jordan Smith 68-68, Wade Ormsby (AUS) 67-69, Romain Langasque (FRA) 66-70, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 66-70, Shane Lowry 69-67, Samooja Kalle (FIN) 66-70, Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN) 69-67, Bradley Dredge (WAL) 68-68, Scott Hend (AUS) 66-70
137 - Lee Westwood 67-70, Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 66-71, Paul Waring 67-70
138 - Pablo Larrazabal (ESP) 72-66, Martin Kaymer (GER) 71-67, Aaron Rai 70-68, Byeong-hun An (KOR) 70-68, Justin Harding (RSA) 70-68, Romain Wattel (FRA) 68-70, Alexander Bjork (SWE) 68-70, Ian Poulter 67-71, Tommy Fleetwood 68-70, Mikko Korhonen (FIN) 71-67, Ross Fisher 69-69
139 - Joachim B Hansen (DEN) 73-66, Eddie Pepperell 72-67, Wu Ashun (PRC) 71-68, Dean Burmester (RSA) 70-69, Nino Bertasio (ITA) 68-71, Tyrrell Hatton 69-70, Thomas Aiken (RSA) 71-68
140 - Robert Karlsson (SWE) 75-65, Lucas Bjerregaard (DEN) 72-68, Jens Dantorp (SWE) 70-70, Victor Perez (FRA) 70-70, Kurt Kitayama (USA) 71-69, Tom Lewis 68-72, Thomas Bjorn (DEN) 72-68, Shubhankar Sharma (IND) 71-69, Stephen Gallacher (SCO) 68-72
141 - Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL) 74-67, Andrew Johnston 72-69, Thomas Pieters (BEL) 72-69, Sam Brazel (AUS) 71-70, Victor Dubuisson (FRA) 71-70, Marc Warren (SCO) 70-71, Matthias Schwab (AUT) 69-72, Haydn Porteus (RSA) 69-72, Richie Ramsay (SCO) 69-72, Tapio Pulkkanen (FIN) 68-73, Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND) 71-70, Matthew Southgate 71-70, Hideto Tanihara (JPN) 67-74, Raphael Jacquelin (FRA) 69-72, Shaun Norris (RSA) 72-69, Christiaan Bezuidenhout (RSA) 67-74, Ashley Chesters 72-69, Chris Paisley 73-68
142 - Henrik Stenson (SWE) 70-72, Joost Luiten (NED) 70-72, Robert Rock 74-68, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) 73-69
143 - Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 74-69, Rafa Cabrera-Bello (ESP) 75-68, Ryan Fox (NZL) 70-73
144 - Phachara Khongwatmai (THA) 70-74, Scott Jamieson (SCO) 70-74, Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 71-73
145 - Richard Sterne (RSA) 78-67, Gavin Green (MAL) 71-74, Paul Dunne 70-75, Brandon Stone (RSA) 75-70
146 - Trevor Immelman (RSA) 76-70, Colin Montgomerie (SCO) 71-75, Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP) 74-72
147 - SSP Chawrasia (IND) 72-75, David Lipsky (USA) 74-73
150 - Andy Sullivan 74-76, Jose Maria Olazabal (ESP) 76-74