Shane Lowry overcame an early wobble in his second round to shoot a battling two-under-par 70 to stay atop the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the Abu Dhabi Championship on Thursday.
The Irishman, who is searching for his first win since the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational in August 2015, shot a bogey-free course record-equalling 10-under 62 in the opening round Wednesday, but dropped two shots early in his second round.
But the 31-year-old knuckled down and did not make any major mistakes. Four birdies from there on were good enough for a one-shot advantage over the South African duo of Louis Oosthuizen and Richard Sterne, who both added 68s to their opening-round 65s.
Lee Westwood had set the clubhouse pace after the morning rounds with a 68. That gave him solo possession of fourth place at 10-under, where he could have been joined by compatriot Ian Poulter if not for a bogey on the final hole after finding water off the tee.
Two-time defending champion Tommy Fleetwood made the cut on the number – at three-under par – courtesy a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-five 18th hole.
American world number two Brooks Koepka, the highest-ranked player in the field, shot a 70 and was five off the pace at seven-under par.
Lowry made bogeys on the second and third holes, but his turnaround after that was remarkable considering he did not make a single birdie on the four par-five holes.
“I’m really happy with that. Look, I knew today was going to be a bit of a weird day after shooting such a low score yesterday. I just tried to go out and play like I played,” said Lowry, ranked 75th in the world.
“To be honest, right from the start, I really feel like I played pretty good today. I think I gave myself a lot of chances.
“I didn’t hole that much. I didn’t birdie any of the par-fives. Some of the shots early on were pretty horrendous, so I battled back and hit some really nice shots out there.”
Sterne was bogey-free for the second day running, while 2010 British Open champion Oosthuizen survived a brace of dropped shots after the turn.
Oosthuizen, who recently won the South African Open, was motoring along nicely with three birdies on the front nine, but pulled his second shot way left on the par-five 10th. He needed to take a penalty drop and wound up making a bogey.
“It was going nice and strong, and then got a bit derailed on the 10th. Made a bogey and the rhythm was a little broke there,” said the world number 26, who bounced back with back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th holes.
World No 3 Dustin Johnson shot a one-under 71 to make the cut, but Henrik Stenson missed out despite a two-under 70.
Leading second-round scores in the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship on Thursday at the par-72 National course of Abu Dhabi Golf Club:
132 – Shane Lowry 62-70
133 – Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 65-68, Richard Sterne (RSA) 65-68
134 – Lee Westwood 66-68
135 – Scott Jamieson 69-66, Tom Lewis 69-67, Ian Poulter 66-69, Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 66-69
136 – Grant Forrest 71-65, Lucas Herbert (AUS) 71-65, Gavin Green (MAL) 69-67, Dominic Foos (GER) 68-68
137 – Jason Scrivener (AUS) 72-65, David Horsey 71-66, Paul Waring 70-67, Joost Luiten (NED) 69-68, Adri Arnaus (ESP) 69-68, Jack Singh Brar 69-68, Brooks Koepka (USA) 67-70, Thomas Pieters (BEL) 67-70, Alexander Bjork (SWE) 66-71, Pablo Larrazabal (ESP) 65-72
138 – Jordan Smith 72-66, Eddie Pepperell 70-68, Matthias Schwab (AUT) 70-68, Matt Wallace 70-68, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 70-68, Bradley Dredge 70-68, James Morrison 69-69, Aaron Rai 68-70, Martin Kaymer (GER) 66-72
139 – Thomas Detry (BEL) 72-67, Callum Shinkwin 71-68, Edoardo Molinari (ITA) 71-68, Scott Hend (AUS) 71-68, Branden Grace (RSA) 70-69, Sam Brazel (BRA) 70-69, Erik van Rooyen (RSA) 70-69, Justin Walters (RSA) 70-69, Ryan Fox (NZL) 69-70, Nino Bertasio (ITA) 69-70, Rafa Cabrera-Bello (ESP) 68-71, Maximillian Kieffer (GER) 68-71, Benjamin Hebert (FRA) 68-71
140 – Jorge Campillo (ESP) 71-69, Dean Burmester (RSA) 71-69, Anders Romero (ARG) 70-70, Richie Ramsay 70-70, Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND) 70-70, Zander Lombard (RSA) 70-70, Dustin Johnson (USA) 69-71, Joachim B Hansen (DEN) 69-71, Sam Horsfield 69-71, Alexander Levy (FRA) 69-71, Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR) 67-73
141 – Victor Perez (FRA) 75-66, Darren Fichardt (RSA) 73-68, Kurt Kitayama (USA) 72-69, Alvaro Quiros (ESP) 72-69, Renato Paratore (ITA) 71-70, Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL) 69-72, Andy Sullivan 69-72, Thomas Bjorn (DEN) 70-71, Raphael Jacquelin (FRA) 71-70, Matthew Southgate 70-71, Robert Macintyre 70-71, Tommy Fleetwood 69-72, Ross Fisher 69-72, David Lipsky (USA) 68-73, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) 65-76
142 – Henrik Stenson (SWE) 72-70, Tyrrell Hatton 72-70, Li Haotong (PRC) 71-71, Robert Rock 71-71, Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 70-72, Thomas Aiken (RSA) 70-72, George Coetzee (RSA) 74-68
143 – Shubhankar Sharma (IND) 72-71, Byeong-hun An (KOR) 72-71
144 – Adrian Otagegui (ESP) 70-74, Jose Maria Olazabal (ESP) 72-72
145 – Chris Paisley 71-74, Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN) 75-70
146 – Paul Dunne 73-73, Trevor Immelman (RSA) 72-74
147 – Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 75-72
148 – SSP Chawrasia (IND) 75-73, Andrew Johnston 74-74