McIlroy is three shots off the lead with seven holes of his second round to go. AP/PA Images
In Contention

McIlroy moving through the gears to stay in touch with leaders in Dubai

Jamie Donaldson has maintained his advantage but McIlroy is closing in.

JAMIE DONALDSON MAINTAINED his lead with the chasing pack closing in at the Dubai Desert Classic, while Rory McIlroy remained in the hunt before adverse weather meant he was unable to finish his second round.

Welshman Donaldson followed up a brilliant opening-round 62 with a more modest three under-par 69 on Friday, to sit at 13-under for the tournament, with day two coming to a premature end after fog earlier in the day caused a lengthy delay.

His round included four birdies and just one bogey, enough to lead by one stroke from Li Haotong — who signed for a second consecutive six-under 66.

Branden Grace surged up the leaderboard with a seven-under 65 and is just two strokes back alongside Alexander Bjork, who still has six holes to complete.

Grace, who finished second at the South Africa Open this month, was blemish free during his second round — making three birdies on the front nine and a further four on the way home.

McIlroy’s encouraging start to the season having returned from a self-enforced lay-off last week in Abu Dhabi, where he placed third, was continuing before play was called with the skies darkening.

The four-time Major was three under through 11 holes and just three shots off the pace set by Donaldson with four birdies negated slightly by one bogey.

Further down the leaderboard, Matthew Southgate had a moment to savour as he hit the second hole-in-one of the European Tour season by acing the seventh, and the Englishman is five shots off the top.

Paul Dunne has dropped down the leaderboard after a two-over par round, with the Wicklow native now sitting on four-under par.

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