McIlroy savours first ace

The world No 1 emulated Miguel Angel Jimenez???s first-day ace at the 177-yard 15th hole, while he also made five birdies and just one bogey in a 66 that left him just two shots behind leader Martin Kaymer.

The German, already a three-time champion in Abu Dhabi, was closing out a 67 that set the clubhouse target at 13 under just as McIlroy was beginning his second round.

The reigning Open and US PGA champion wasted no time in eating into Kaymer???s lead as he opened with a pair of birdies and lipped out for another at the third, but he then gave a shot back at the sixth.

McIlroy started the inward half as he began the first with back-to-back birdies, although he failed to convert superb approaches to both the 13th and 14th before conjuring up a moment of magic at the next.

His perfectly struck nine-iron pitched just short of the pin to the left, but his ball dug in on the first bounce and the cut-spin directed it straight into the cup.

McIlroy did well to save par on the 17th after driving into a fairway bunker, and he also found sand at the last before pitching to 12 feet and rolling in the birdie putt to reach 11 under.

“I felt really good,??? he told Sports 4. ???I went to the range yesterday and worked on a couple of things and drove the ball much better today, which you need to around here.

“Ball-striking wise, I couldn’t really fault it. I was playing really well from tee to green. I felt like I was hitting some good putts as well, but they just weren’t dropping.

“Overall I’m not going to complain with a 66 as it’s a great position to be in going into the weekend.”

And on his hole-in-one, McIlroy added: “It definitely made up for the previous two holes. It was a perfect number, a straight downwind 177.

???As soon as it left the bat it looked like it had a chance. It’s my first one ever in competition as a pro, and obviously the beers are on me tonight.”

Meanwhile, McIlroy???s good friend and playing partner Rickie Fowler was left in the shade as he made the halfway cut with nothing to spare on two under after a disappointing 75.

The young American was going along nicely after a couple of early birdies until he got into serious trouble at the eighth and ran up an ugly triple-bogey eight.

Fowler dropped two more shots over the back nine, but he regained his composure to record solid pars at the last three holes and ensure an extra 36 holes.