From Brian Keogh in Dubai
Graeme McDowell and Gary Murphy are determined to chase down Tiger Woods after solid second round 72s in the Dubai Desert Classic.
As Rory McIlroy (77), Peter Lawrie (77) and Darren Clarke (75) all missed the cut, the pair are just three shots adrift of the world No 1 in a share of fifth place on five under par.
Paul McGinley failed to take advantage of fine play from tee to green with some poor putting and a 72 left him seven shots off the pace on one under.
But McDowell and Murphy are right in the thick of things after surviving a blasting from the sand storm that whipped across the Emirates Club from the north west.
“It’s like you play golf and get a free exfoliation with it,” McDowell said. “That’s pretty impressive, playing golf in a sandblaster.
“I hope the weather gives us a chance to give Tiger a run for his money this weekend. It’s just nice to be on the sharp end of a proper event like this one early in the season. It gets the competitive juices flowing.”
Murphy drove the ball well, missing just two fairways, and clearly enjoyed being at the business end of the leaderboard after missing the cut in his first two starts of the year.
“It's pretty wild out there,” said Murphy, who has found hit putting touch after two poor weeks. “I didn't play as well as I played yesterday, but I am pleased to hang in there.
“You are trying to knuckle it around the whole way. You can't really go at flags or hit shots. They were sensible and moved a few tees up today and I still hit long irons into the holes.”
Lawrie looked set to qualify comfortably when he got to four under par for the tournament with nine to play but came home in six over par 41, finishing with four consecutive bogeys from the sixth to miss out by one shot.
It was a similar story for McIlroy who ran up his seventh bogey of the day at the finding water with his approach to his final hole (the 9th).
The 18 year old did well to make a bogey five but still missed out while Clarke needed five closing pars to make it but bogeyed four holes holes in a row from the 14th to miss the one over par cut by four shots.