Dubai - Rory McIlroy remained on course to be crowned European number one for the third time in four years on Friday as Andy Sullivan held the halfway lead at the $8 million DP World Tour Championship.
At the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates, 28-year-old Sullivan scored his second successive round of six-under par 68 to lead by one shot at 12-under par 132, ahead of 23-year-old Argentinian Emiliano Grillo who surged to second place at 11-under par 133 courtesy of a tournament-best eight-under par 64.
American Patrick Reed made five birdies in his last six holes for a storming finish that propelled him to third place at nine-under par 135.
In the battle for the Race to Dubai, number one McIlroy opened up a slight advantage over the second placed Danny Willett after another round of four-under par 68 to move to joint fourth place at eight-under par 136, while his English rival could only add a 70 to fall two shots behind.
Northern Ireland's McIlroy was joined at 136 by the in-form Thai Thongchai Jaidee (67) and 2012 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (65) of South Africa.
World number five Justin Rose, who is third in the Race to Dubai, moved up to seven-under par with a 67, the same as South African Branden Grace (69), who is sixth in the standings and also in with a chance to become the European number one player.
Sullivan, who won the Portugal Masters last month to add to his two wins earlier in the year at Johannesburg, was being followed by an enthusiastic group of nearly 30 people from his hometown of Nuneaton, and he gave them plenty to cheer.
He started by hitting his second shot to less than a foot on the first hole, and closed with a birdie putt from almost 40 feet on the 18th. In between, he made two more monster putts on the 12th and 14th holes, and also was impressive with his iron play in the bogey-free round.
Sullivan said the support from his relatives and friends was key.
"It's massive and probably a key part of me playing well this week because they just keep going," he added. "Even when you start hitting a few wayward shots, things start going, the adrenaline gets going and absolutely fantastic.
"There's a lot of good guys going to be chasing me over the weekend and I'm sure they are going to come at me, so for me, it's just try and do what I did today, be patient and try to play my game and not worry about anyone else."
Grillo, who won the Web.com Tour Championship to earn his PGA Tour card last month, before winning the Frys.com Open in his first start on the new season of the PGA Tour, was also bogey-free.
"Definitely a nice round," he said. "I played here last year and didn't feel comfortable on the golf course, but I don't know, something changed this year. Hitting the ball very nicely. Very pleased the way I played and hopefully I can keep it going for the next few days."
McIlroy, who made five birdies in his 68, said he wasn't thinking about the Race to Dubai.
"I'm treating it like a normal event because I'm just here to win and I know if I win, then everything else will take care of itself," he said.
"Just trying to focus on my own game and focus on myself and if I can do that, hopefully things work out the right way."
Henrik Stenson, champion the last two years, had a remarkable turn around after he had ballooned to nine-over par after six holes Friday.
After going five-over in his last four holes Thursday, the Swede world number six made a bogey on the first, a double on the third and a bogey on the fifth.
But he then made six birdies over the next seven holes and finished with a 69 to be at two-over par 146.