Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters retained the No. 1 and 2 spots atop the leaderboard at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship during Friday’s second round.
But all eyes seemed fixated on the man who rose up to No. 3.
The #1 golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, fired a 6-under 66, the second-best score of the day, to move up five spots to third at 11-under, two strokes behind Kaymer.
Three under through 14, McIlroy wowed the crowd with an ace on the par-3, 177-yard No. 15, the same hole Miguel Angel Jimenez aced on Thursday. Combined with his birdie on No. 18, McIlroy was 5-under on the back nine.
Kaymer followed up Thursday’s 64 with a 5-under 67, comprised of five birdies and no bogeys. Pieters’ lone blemish, a bogey on No. 9, kept him from sitting tied atop the leaderboard headed into Saturday.
Even McIlroy had to tip his cap to the best round of the day; Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger fired a 7-under 65 to move into a four-way tie for eighth.
Although only three players are double-digit strokes below par through the first two rounds, it’s still a tough field, with the cut set at 2-under, leaving players including defending champion Pablo Larrazabal on the wrong side of it. World No. 2 Henrik Stenson, who struggled his way to an opening-round 76, also missed the cut.