Welshman follows up opening day 62 with 69 to be -13 and with an one-shot lead, while two-time champion McIlroy will finish second round on Saturday after fog delayed start.
Jamie Donaldson holds the advantage at Dubai Desert Classic but Rory McIlroy encouraged by his form
A disjointed day at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic concluded with Jamie Donaldson leading the way and Rory McIlroy yet to complete his round.
On Friday, thick morning fog played havoc at Emirates Golf Club. It prompted a delay of two hours and 50 minutes, pushing back tee times and postponing the action until 10am.
It ended at 5:45pm, as the sun set and the course was blanketed once again, this time in darkness. So at the tournament’s supposed halfway stage only half the field had made it through 36 holes.
Shine a light at the leaderboard and Donaldson sits where he did 24 hours previously: at its summit. The Welshman followed Thursday's course-record-threatening 62 with a 3-under-par 69. At 13-under for the event, he holds a one-shot lead.
“It was good,” Donaldson said. “Played nicely. Drove the ball well, iron play was good. Took my chances when I was close enough to do so. Hit a lot of really good putts that didn't go in, where yesterday they all went in.
“But 69 following a 62 is a solid score. It can always be better, can't it? I don't know where it will be at the end of the day, but I'm just concentrating on me and concentrating on putting that ball in those small fairways."
At the day’s close, China’s Haotong Li represented his closest challenger, thanks to a second successive 66. Branden Grace and Alexander Bjork were both one further back on 11-under, although having managed to squeeze in only 12 holes, the latter has an early chance to improve his second-round score when play resumes at 7:30am on Saturday.
Rather ominously, so does McIlroy. The Northern Irishman, a two-time winner of the tournament, finished on the 11th at 10-under. He had gone out in 33, carding three birdies and one bogey. He made amends on 10.
“I'm in a good position,” McIlroy said. “It was hard waiting all day to go out there. Got off to a really good start - 3-under through five - and then made my first bogey of the week on the eighth, which was a bad tee shot. I nearly got away with a par.
“But it was nice to get a shot back there on 10 at the end of the round. Hopefully I can come out in the morning and make a few more birdies and get closer to the lead.”
Not out until just after 3pm, McIlroy spent the unexpected free morning working out and then extending his time on the range. Three-and-half months away from competitive action were consigned to the past in Abu Dhabi last week, where the four-time major champion finished tied-third.
Seemingly, he is over the injury that brought down the curtain early on his 2017 season. In that regard, Saturday’s extra play could actually work in his favour.
“It will probably be a good test for me to play 26 holes tomorrow - see how the body sort of responds to it,” McIlroy said, acknowledging how a fast finish to Round 2 could tee him up nicely for the quick turnaround.
“Yeah, exactly: a bit of momentum. As long as obviously I finish after whatever time, like nine o'clock in the morning, and hopefully if there's no more fog. But it would be nice, maybe get a bit of momentum going and keep it going into the third round."
Fortunately, he feels there will be opportunities to do so.
"Yeah, two par 5s and obviously [par-4] 17 is drivable," McIlroy said. "I've got some chances coming in, but I just have to stay patient. There's some tough holes as well. The first hole of the day tomorrow will be 12, which will be playing quite long.
"So hopefully I'll take advantage of the par 5s and get myself in one of the last couple of groups tomorrow afternoon."