A closing three gave the Kells man a two under par 70 and left him just two shots behind second placed Edoardo Molinari and Ernie Els but still six adrift of a rejuvenated Pablo Martin on seven under par.
Shane Lowry (71) and Gareth Maybin (70) are tied for 13th place on six under while Michael Hoey posted a 69 to make the one under par cut with a shot to spare.
Gary Murphy's hopes to making a strong start to the 2010 season suffered a blow when he signed for a 77 to miss the cut by six strokes on five over.
In the US, Graeme McDowell and Boo Weekley are tied for a lowly 10th place after the opening round of the $3m Shark Shootout in Naples, Florida.
The Ryder Cup rivals carded a one under par 71 in the modified alternate shot opening round of the 12 team event run by Greg Norman.
The winning team will take home $750,000 ($375,000) with the last place finishers picking up $140,000 ($70,000).
On the Ladies European Tour, Rebecca Coakley has a chance of picking up her fourth top 10 from her last five starts in the season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
She fired a bogey free, two under par 70 in the third round at the Emirates to move up to tied 17th on three under par.
Korea's In Kyung Kim leads by three from Sweden's Ana Nordqvist on 14 under par with Maria Hjorth third on 10 under.
Michelle Wie shares fourth place on eight under.