Kiwi Ryan Fox surges up the Abu Dhabi Championship leaderboard

Kiwi Ryan Fox surges up the Abu Dhabi Championship leaderboard

Belgium's Ryder Cup sensation Thomas Pieters' bogey-free 65 made him the man of the moment as he soared to the top of the leaderboard in round two of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

Rory McIlroy's statement of intent, as delivered in his 36th hole of the Abu Dhabi Championship, proved worth the wait. Round one leader and reigning champion Tommy Fleetwood, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Friday, is well placed on 10-under, alongside fellow Englishman Ross Fisher and Frenchman Alexander Levy.

McIlroy, who is making his first competitive start for three months, could easily have shot a 62 if he had taken advantage of his birdie opportunities, especially on the back nine.

Pieters, ranked 40th in the world, finished second here in 2016 but missed the cut a year ago.

American Johnson made four birdies but also an equal number of bogeys, including one on his last hole where he pushed his tee shot into the water, for an even-par 72 start.

Jason Scrivener was the next-best Australian, tied with McIlroy in a share of 17th.

More news: EC recommends disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs for Office Of Profit

But the six-handicapper held his nerve superbly to find the green and finish closer to the pin than Johnson and Fleetwood, with only his idol McIlroy producing a better shot. Today was an improvement on yesterday just in terms of scoring, but I feel like I hit the ball very similar and gave myself a lot of chances. I think my iron play is good. "It seems like I've got good memories of every hole so it's about drawing from those past experiences".

"It was very stress free".

"First competitive round in over 100 days, so its a little bit different", said McIlroy, who last played at the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland on October 8. "I sort of knew what I was expecting out there but at the same time, you never really know". I feel like I'm almost the most prepared for a season that I've ever been, but it was nice to get back out there and it was a great pairing to start off with. I had no problems last night or this morning, that was all fine. "I like the golf course, I've got a lot of confidence and just need to go out tomorrow and put up a low one again". "Everything was just a little bit off".

Sampling the life of a star, Oscar was interviewed by Nick Dougherty on Sky Sports and, having successfully seen off two of the pros, he had a warning for the former world number one.

"It was a great pairing to go out with, Dustin and Tommy", he said. So to see where I'm at compared to where they are, it was nice. It was a good round of golf.

"Personally, I know this course well and I think that's the thing - I know how to get around it".