Rory McIlroy's comeback ahead of schedule in Abu Dhabi

Tommy Fleetwood shares the lead after the first day in Abu Dhabi

McIlroy added a 66 to his opening 69 and completed 36 holes without a single bogey on his card in his first competitive start since October a year ago, although he managed only one birdie over seven par-fives until atoning in style towards the end of day two.

Fleetwood set the mark early in the day when paired with World Number One Dustin Johnson and the returning Rory McIlroy, the reigning Race to Dubai champion finding all 18 greens in matching nines of 33.

"It would have been nice to go bogey-free again, but it was kind of coming and I hit a awful tee shot".

Thomas Pieters, who forged an excellent alliance with McIlroy at the last Ryder Cup, reminded onlookers he wants to remain part of such a fold by charging to the top of the leaderboard.

McIlroy, by the way, had a strong start to his 2018 season after a long layoff, posting a 69 to be in a multiplayer tie for 17th, just three strokes back of Fleetwood. The front nine started with a birdie-3 and two more followed at the third and fifth before, for the second day running, he ticked the ninth.

English compatriot Paul Casey, who has twice been a victor here, shot a seven-under par 65, which included an eagle and five birdies, is at nine-under for the Championship.

Wade Ormsby and Jason Norris both signed for 1-over 73s to be T89 while Andrew Dodt will need something special tomorrow after recording a 4-over76.

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Fleetwood dropped his first shot of the tournament at the 16th, but he bounced back with birdies at each of the final two holes to close on 10 under which lifted him one ahead of McIlroy and two clear of world No 1 Johnson.

After a breakout season in 2017 the Englishman continues to impress and could hardly have played better under the circumstances. I feel like I'm hitting good putts and they are just sliding by the edges.

"The first two days I've been really, really happy with, and I played really solid". I didn't put myself under any stress at all. "I sort of knew what I was expecting out there but at the same time, you never really know". "It's nice. I don't think I've ever went bogey-free for a whole tournament and it would be nice to do that".

Asked how many people he would be telling about his exploits, Murphy added: "Everybody I meet".

"I was a little surprised to see him on the tee there, I didn't expect him to be inside the ropes today but it was good fun and he hit a great shot".

The cut comes barely a week after the top professional had another fine performance at the BMW SA Open Golf Championship last week where he finished a credible fourth.

"It was nice. I was excited to get going". "Everything was just a little bit off".

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