Rory McIlroy says he was indebted to his scrambling around the greens for keeping him firmly in the hunt to win a third Hero Dubai Desert Classic title after the second round at Emirates Golf Club.
The World Number One produced a stunning three-hole blitz at the end of his first round on Friday but was unable to hit those same heights as he posted a two-under-par 70 on Saturday.
At eight under par, McIlroy sits two shots off a share of the lead held by Thomas Pieters, American amateur Michael Thorbjornsen and Richard Bland in the second Rolex Series event of the year.
“I've scrambled well this week,” the four-time Major Champion said.
“I really needed to scramble well on Thursday, and then again today in some spots.
“So I think it's nice when you're not feeling on your game you have a short game to sort of bail you out, and I think that's the reason why I'm still not too far away from the lead.”
McIlroy is making his first appearance of the year this week and his highlight on Saturday came with an eagle at the par-five 13th, with his only bogey coming at the tenth after an errant tee-shot.
“I chipped and putted it well, and I got myself around the golf course okay,” he added.
“Being able to post a couple of decent scores and at least have a chance going into the last two days [is important].”
McIlroy headed to the range shortly after his second round, which saw him struggle for consistency off the tee as he found only two fairways.
He added: “When you can't hit fairways around here, and the rough is quite thick, it's very hard to have any control of your ball and get it close into par fours. I am just a little rusty.”
McIlroy will play alongside Dan Bradbury in the third round after the Englishman catapulted himself into contention with a bogey-free nine-under-par 63.
In just his second Rolex Series appearance, the 23-year-old posted the low round of the day as he found a measure for the greens and can look forward to playing in front of big crowds at the Majlis Course on Sunday.
“I can't really complain, out here playing great golf courses, great fields," he said.
“It is quite strange, like I was coming down the ninth, my last hole, Rory was just starting, and I could barely see them.
“So that's quite strange watching that. I had a little taste of it with Jon Rahm in Spain, so I am a little bit used to it. Everyone's just enjoying themselves and loves it out here.”