Spain’s Alvaro Quiros was up to his old desert tricks again on Friday, firing a course record-equaling 64 to storm four shots clear of the field after the Dubai World Championship second round.
While Quiros’ eight-under-par effort gave him a 12-under total of 132, Luke Donald narrowed the deficit on fellow Briton Rory McIlroy in their two-horse race to finish the season as European No. 1.
World No. 1 Donald followed his opening 72 with a four-under 68 to close on 140, three behind McIlroy who dropped two strokes in the last two holes to return a 71.
US PGA Tour money-list winner Donald needs to finish equal ninth here with no more than one other competitor to become the first player to land the orders of merit on both sides of the Atlantic.
At the top of the leaderboard, the fun-loving Quiros was doing his best to spoil the money-list party by once again showing how much he enjoyed golf in the Gulf.
The smiling 190.5m-tall Spaniard, winner of this year’s Dubai Desert Classic and last year’s Qatar Masters, is on track for a Middle East treble after snatching only the second eagle of the week at the par-5 18th.
Quiros did not drop a stroke all day and picked up birdies at the second, fourth, eighth, 11th, 14th and 16th holes to equal the Greg Norman-designed Earth course record held by Swede Peter Hanson and British pair Lee Westwood and Ross Fisher.
Asked to explain his penchant for low rounds in the Gulf, the long-hitting Spaniard replied: “It’s sunny here and I like to play in the heat.”
“Also, most of the time in the Middle East the greens are firm and quick, so it’s a bigger advantage if you are hitting shorter clubs into them as I normally do,” he added.
Quiros, one of the longest drivers in world golf, muscled his way on to the putting surface at the 620-yard 18th with two big blows before sinking his eagle attempt.
He said he was keen to show the season-ending Dubai extravaganza was not simply about McIlroy and Donald.
“Rory and Luke are not the only two players in the tournament,” Quiros said. “The rest of us are trying to spoil the party. This is good, otherwise the competition would not be as stiff.”
Hanson, the overnight leader, added a 72 to his opening 64 to take second place on 136, one ahead of McIlroy and his fellow Briton, Robert Rock (69).
McIlroy looked tired and forlorn after finishing his round in limp fashion.
The 22-year-old Northern Irishman has been suffering with a virus for a couple of weeks and hinted he would pull out of next week’s Asian Tour event in Thailand.
“To be honest, I am ready for the season to be done,” McIlroy told reporters. “But it’s up to the doctor as well.”
“If she feels like I can go then I’ll make a decision whether I will or not,” he added, referring to his doctor’s appointment yesterday.
Earlier in the day a member of McIlroy’s management team told Reuters the US Open champion was “exhausted” and “run down.”
After his round the world No. 2 opened up about the nature of his virus.
“They said it could have been Dengue fever, which is obviously carried by mosquitos,” McIlroy said.
“It could have been that, but it could also have been food poisoning. It could have been bacterial ... it could have been a number of different things. I’ve just got lasting effects and my body is trying to fight it to get back to 100 percent,” he said.