Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy leads by two strokes after a first-round 65 that included an eagle at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Florida on Thursday.

McIlroy made six birdies and an eagle on the 16th hole to card a seven-under-65 with a bogey on the 11th the only blemish on his scorecard.

The Northern Irishman, who made 11 of 14 fairways, leads by two strokes from American trio Beau Hossler, JJ Spaun and Billy Horschel, with a group of six players one further shot back including Sungjae Im and Will Zalatoris.

“This is my fourth start of the calendar year. I’ve had one really good chance to win and probably one other half chance," McIlroy told reporters after day one.

"I feel like I’m playing well enough to have chances to win golf tournaments, but all you can ask of yourself is to keep putting yourself in those positions on Sundays and then you see where your game really is.

“Hopefully, this is another week where I put myself in a position where I can really see where my game is when the pressure is on.”

McIlroy's day was highlighted by his 41-foot putt for eagle on the par-five 16th hole.

"I played the par-fives particularly well, and that was the bulk of the score," said McIlroy who won at Bay Hill in 2018.

"I've said this all along: You can play within yourself here and still shoot a good score, I feel, if you're just disciplined and pick off the birdies where you're supposed to."

McIlroy is one of four players from the PGA Tour's top six, with world number one Jon Rahm struggling with an even round on the opening day - including falling short on a gimme putt - to be seven shots off the pace.

Viktor Hovland carded a three-under-round of 69, while Scottie Scheffler is two under after the first day.

Rory McIlroy says Phil Mickelson should be forgiven for his comments about a proposed Saudi Arabia-backed Super Golf League and welcomed back following a break.

Mickelson last month apologised for "reckless" remarks over a potential breakaway league.

The six-time major champion claimed the Super Golf League could provide players with "leverage" as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to "reshape how the PGA Tour operates".

Mickelson suggested he and several other golfers paid their lawyers to construct the proposed breakaway competition's agreement, even though he stated Saudi Arabia has "a horrible record on human rights."

The American faced a huge backlash and opted to take time away from playing golf after apologising.

McIlroy declared the Super Golf League "dead in the water" as he accused Mickelson of making "selfish, egotistical, ignorant" remarks.

Yet the Northern Irishman expects the 51-year-old to resume his career and wants the winner of the 2021 PGA Championship to be forgiven.

He said: "I think Phil has been a wonderful ambassador for the game of golf and still is a wonderful ambassador for the game of golf.

"It's unfortunate that a few comments that he thought he was making in confidence or off the record got out there – but this whole situation is unfortunate.

"Look, Phil will be back. I think the players want to see him back. He's done such a wonderful job for the game of golf, and he's represented the game of golf very, very well for the entirety of his career.

"We all make mistakes. We all say things we want to take back. No one is different in that regard. But we should be allowed to make mistakes, and we should be allowed to ask for forgiveness and for people to forgive us and move on.

"Hopefully, he comes back at some stage, and he will, and people will welcome him back and be glad that he is back."

Rory McIlroy declared the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway Super Golf League "dead in the water" as he accused Phil Mickelson of making "selfish, egotistical, ignorant" remarks.

A number of high-profile players are said to have been targeted by organisers of the lucrative proposal, including Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.

But the most prominent names to have discussed the league publicly – including Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa – had pledged allegiance to the PGA Tour, and Johnson and DeChambeau joined them on Sunday, a significant turn of events.

Mickelson recently gave a remarkable interview to the Fire Pit Collective's Alan Shipnuck, in which the six-time major champion claimed he and several other golfers paid their lawyers to construct the proposed breakaway competition's operating agreement.

As Mickelson put it, the motivation was "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates", claiming Saudi money had provided "leverage" for negotiations.

Mickelson criticised PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, and McIlroy, speaking on Sunday after tying for 10th place at the Genesis Invitational, made clear his disdain for the 51-year-old's comments.

"I don't want to kick someone while he's down obviously, but I thought they were naive, selfish, egotistical, ignorant, a lot of words to describe that interaction he had with Shipnuck," McIlroy said.

"It was just very surprising, disappointing, sad, and I'm sure he's sitting at home sort of rethinking his position and where he goes from here."

DeChambeau declared his commitment to the PGA Tour, stating: "While there has been a lot of speculation surrounding my support for another tour, I want to make it very clear that as long as the best players in the world are playing the PGA Tour, so will I."

Johnson also spoke out, saying: "Over the past several months, there has been a great deal of speculation about an alternative tour, much of which seems to have included me and my future in professional golf. I feel it is now time to put such speculation to rest. I am fully committed to the PGA Tour."

Asked if such players supporting the US-based PGA Tour would finish off the Super Golf League venture, McIlroy said: "Yeah, yeah. I mean, who's left? Who's left to go? There's no-one. It's dead in the water in my opinion. I just can't see any reason why anyone would go."

Four-time major winner McIlroy added: "I've always reiterated that I feel like this is the best place to play golf if you're an elite professional golfer."

He praised tour executives and welcomed the comments from DeChambeau and Johnson.

"I was really glad to see DJ and Bryson fill out those statements this week," McIlroy said. "We all want to play against the best players in the world, and they are certainly two of the best players in the world. It's nice to know that they're committed to playing here and committed to making this the best tour in the world."

Joaquin Niemann extended his lead at the Genesis Invitational to three strokes after an eagle on the 10th hole on the third day at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California.

The Chilean, who led after both of the first two days, carded a six-under-round of 68 to be 19-under overall, meaning his 194 across 54 holes is a course record. He leads from Cameron Young who is 16-under.

Young's double bogey on the 16th hole opened up a big gap at the top, with Viktor Hovland moving into third with a six-under-65 but he is six shots behind Niemann at 13-under.

Niemann carded four birdies on the front nine, before the highlight of his day with an eagle on the 10th after an aggressive drive.

The eagle took world number 32 Niemann to 21-under before two bogeys in his final seven holes, although Young was unable to make any major inroads.

Norwegian world number four Hovland was the big mover on Saturday, with five birdies on the front nine, although bogeys on the 14th and 15th slowed his charge.

Former PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas is one stroke behind the Norwegian after a one-under-70, while second-ranked Collin Morikawa is a further shot back after his three-under-68 took him to 11-under overall.

Last week's Arizona Open winner Scottie Scheffler also managed a six-under-round to be tied on 10-under alongside Maverick McNealy, Marc Leishman and Max Homa.

Rory McIlroy carded a four-under-67 to be seven-under and tied in a large group that includes three-time major champion Jordan Spieth who struggled with a two-over-73 with three bogeys and one birdie for the day.

Rory McIlroy believes the identity of those rejecting the Super Golf League "has to tell you something", as both he and Jon Rahm remain committed to the PGA Tour.

A number of high-profile players are said to have been targeted by organisers of the lucrative Saudi-backed breakaway, including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson.

But the most prominent names to have discussed the league publicly – including McIlroy, Rahm and Collin Morikawa – have instead pledged their allegiance to the PGA Tour.

McIlroy referred to the rival series as the "not-so-Super League" on Wednesday, declaring himself "so sick" of the subject.

He added: "You look at the people who have already said no. You've got the top players in the world who are saying no, so that has to tell you something."

World number one Rahm also appears fed up with fielding questions on the Super Golf League but clarified his stance – speaking, like McIlroy, ahead of the Genesis Invitational.

"This is my official one and only time I'll talk about this, where I am officially declaring my fealty to the PGA Tour," Rahm said.

"I'm a PAC [Player Advisory Council] member, and I have a lot of belief in [PGA Tour commissioner] Jay Monahan and the product that they're going to give us in the future.

"There has been a lot of talk and speculation about the Saudi league. It's just not something I believe is the best for me and my future in golf, and I think the best legacy I can accomplish will be with the PGA Tour."

Rory McIlroy wasted a glorious opportunity to win a third Dubai Desert Classic title in a gripping conclusion that saw Viktor Hovland edge Richard Bland in a play-off.

After making steady progress up the leaderboard on Friday and Saturday, McIlroy had a share of the lead alongside Hovland and Bland heading into the final hole on Sunday.

But the four-time major winner, aiming to add to his 2009 and 2015 triumphs in Dubai, sent his approach shot from 267 yards way right on the 18th and it ended in the water.

McIlroy gave himself hope by chipping a shot within 15 feet of the hole to remain on course for par, but his stroke brushed the cup and left him 11-under for the tournament.

That put him a stroke behind Hovland and Bland, who carded a six-under 66 and four-under 68 for the day respectively to finish level and take the competition to an extra hole at the Emirates Golf Club.

Hovland finished strongly with two birdies and an eagle on the final three holes to set the clubhouse lead, which Bland matched with two birdies in a row to conclude his round.

It was Hovland who prevailed in the first play-off hole, the Norwegian rolling in a three-footer for par after Bland's bogey opened the door.

The 24-year-old has now won three of his last five events, having also prevailed at the Hero World Challenge and Mayakoba Golf Classic towards the end of 2021.

Hovland started the day six strokes behind overnight leader Justin Harding, who endured a poor final round, which included a triple-bogey on the 11th to finish in joint-fourth.

"This is pretty wild. I didn't really think this was possible going into today," Hovland said.

"I knew I had to shoot a really low number but a lot of things had to go my way and I am thankful that they did."

Rory McIlroy remains in contention to win the Dubai Desert Classic for a third time after moving to within two shots of leader Justin Harding ahead of the final round.

The four-time major winner shot up the leaderboard into a share of fifth place on Friday, four behind Harding, and halved that deficit with a three-under 69 third round on Saturday.

McIlroy, who previously won the tournament as a 19-year-old in 2009 and again in 2015, initially struggled to make up ground as he found himself just one under after nine holes.

An eagle at the par-five 10th breathed fresh life into the Northern Irishman's round, though he balanced out a couple of birdies with two bogeys in a rather mixed back nine.

But the former world number one is now 10 under for the tournament and hot on the heels of Harding, who added to his opening rounds of 65 and 68 with a one-under 71.

"I think it was a fair reflection of how I played," McIlroy said. "There were a couple of good things and a couple of bad things in there, but I feel like it all evened out by the end.

"It was nice to birdie the last, shoot something in the 60s and play myself into the last group tomorrow.

"I think as well, this late in the day, it starts to get hard to hole putts on the greens because they're a little crusty and got progressively faster as the day went on.

"I started to putt a little more defensively on the back nine. All of that leads to a pretty challenging day."

McIlroy's Ryder Cup team-mate Tommy Fleetwood is a shot further back after recovering from back-to-back bogeys at the fifth and sixth to move to nine under.

Erik van Rooyen also trails Harding by three shots, while Paul Casey, Tyrrell Hatton, Bernd Wiesberger, Richard Bland, Adrian Meronk and Fabrizio Zanotti are four off the pace.

Hatton started round three in second place, but he lacked consistency on Saturday and was made to pay for a double-bogey at the 15th when finding the water.

Shane Lowry enjoyed the lowest-scoring round of the day at the Majlis Course with 68, despite a double-bogey at the ninth, though he is way down in joint-23rd. 

Rory McIlroy predicted he would enjoy the weekend at the Dubai Desert Classic after a 66 on day two moved him firmly into contention.

The former world number one vaulted up the leaderboard into a share of fifth place, following up a steady 71 with a bogey-free round containing four birdies and an eagle.

A two-time winner of this tournament, having been champion as a 19-year-old in 2009 and again in 2015, McIlroy has happy memories and there could be more cause to celebrate come Sunday.

He moved to seven under par through 36 holes, putting him just four shots behind the leader, Justin Harding of South Africa, who added a 68 to his opening 65.

England's Tyrrell Hatton sits second on nine under after matching McIlroy's score. Nobody beat 66 in the second round, with Germany's Nicolai von Dellingshausen also making the same score, in his case atoning for an opening 77 to reach a share of 38th place.

South African Erik van Rooyen and Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti share second on eight under par, with McIlroy one shot back in a group that also includes England's Richard Bland, Norway's Viktor Hovland, Adrian Meronk of Poland, and the first-round leader Joachim B Hansen, who had four bogeys and four birdies in a level-par 72. Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood and Paul Casey were all on six under.

McIlroy chipped in for eagle at 13, while leader Harding, who began on the back nine, holed from 183 yards at the par-four sixth.

There was satisfaction but also frustration for McIlroy after his round, as he said: "It could have been way lower. I certainly hit the ball good enough for it to be a few shots lower. I hit the ball as good as I've done in a long time, and it could have been a few better, but 66 is a good score and sets me up for a nice weekend."

McIlroy said he had been making technical alterations to his swing on the range, and added: "I thought I hit my irons a lot better today and was in control of the driver a bit better too."

To his frustration, McIlroy has not won a major since reaching four big ones in 2014, but he had two victories on the PGA Tour last year and was firmly in the hunt for the DP World Tour Championship in November until a closing 74 scuppered his chances.

The Northern Irishman tied for 12th last week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, enjoying a strong weekend after only just making the cut. This time he is in a better position from which to strike, and he likes his game at the moment.

"I think with how I ended last year, I certainly found something. I got a little bit of momentum, I won on the PGA Tour and had a really good chance to win here in Dubai at the end of last season," McIlroy said speaking to the DP World Tour website.

"But it feels good. There are so many ebbs and flows in this game and the career's so long that it's hard to compare one season to the next, and how you're feeling and how you're hitting it. But looking back on my last 12 or 14 years, the body of work is there.

"I've played well when I haven't felt so good and I've played poorly when I've felt really good. So it's just a matter of keep showing up each and every day and try your best and try to put the lowest score possible on the scorecard and move on."

Rory McIlroy believes playing patient golf will be the trick to succeeding once more in a major.

The former world number one is a four-time major winner, but the last of those victories came in 2014 at the PGA Championship.

McIlroy has enjoyed plenty of success since then, winning such as the Tour Championship twice, the Wells Fargo Championship twice, the DP World Tour Championship and the Players Championship.

While a fifth major success has eluded him, the 32-year-old is confident his chance will come again if he remains in the right mindset.

"I haven't won a major in the last seven years but I've basically won everything else," he told BBC Sport.

"I've won the Players Championship, I've won FedEx Cups, I've won Race to Dubai, I've won World Golf Championships, I've won national opens. You know, I've done a lot in the past seven years.

"That hasn't included a major championship but I've played good enough golf in those seven years to win one and I'm staying as patient as I possibly can and, as I say, just giving myself chances.

"I don't think there's anything I should or could do differently. I think the one thing that's held me back, especially in the majors over the last few years, is just getting off to slow starts.

"Opening up at Augusta with a 72 or a 71 and not shooting that 67 or 68 that puts you right in the thick of the tournament from the very start.

"I can't go into the first round of a tournament or on a Wednesday night under pressure to try and shoot a good score. I just have to go out there and let it happen.

"Historically when I've got myself up there early in a tournament I've been able to stay there and capitalise on that start."

McIlroy also believes the depth of quality rivals he faces has made the challenge of winning another major even greater.

"I think I haven't given myself enough chances," said the world number eight.

"I think if I'd have had more chances and realistic chances, just putting yourself in those positions, the more comfortable you are going to feel up there. 

"If you keep knocking on the door, one of those doors is going to open for you.

"I had a chance at Carnoustie in 2018, played the final group with Patrick Reed in 2018 at Augusta, tied for the lead with nine holes to go at the US Open last year at Torrey Pines.

"I've had a few chances and just haven't capitalised. I think players are getting better and better.

"When I last won back in 2014 I'd never heard of [Open champion] Collin Morikawa, I'd never heard of [world number one] Jon Rahm.

"A lot of these guys coming through are playing unbelievably good golf. I don't just have to beat five guys."

Rory McIlroy wants to follow Tiger Woods' lead as he strives to return to the peak of his powers this season.

It is seven years since McIlroy won the last of his four major titles and he was reduced to tears when frankly stating he "should have done more" to try and prevent Europe from slumping to a record defeat to the United States in the Ryder Cup last September.

McIlroy went on to end 2021 with a flourish, winning the CJ Cup and finishing in a share of sixth in the DP World Tour Championship after holding the lead heading into the final round.

The 32-year-old, who will start his season at the Abu Dhabi Championship this weekend, has outlined his intention to adopt an approach that worked so well for the legendary Woods over the years.

"There are certainly aspects of what he did so well in the past that I would obviously love to put into my game," said the Northern Irishman.

McIlroy is not looking to try match Bryson DeChambeau in the driving department, though.

He added: "No, I don't need to. The goal of hitting more fairways, it maybe means throttling back and hitting three-wood a little more often or hitting clubs that are maybe not as aggressive off tees and just putting yourself in the fairway.

"I'll certainly pick and choose my spots where I can take advantage of the driver and hit it, the best player of the last 30 years, Tiger, he picked and chose where he hit driver and he played a very, very controlled game. It didn't work out too badly for him."

McIlroy revealed he is taking a different approach when setting his goals for the year.

"I used to sit down on the flight here and write down I want to win five times, I want to win a major, I want to win The Race to Dubai, I want to win the FedExCup, I'd love to win six times in a season as I've won five in the past, I want to do this or that," he said.

"And all those things are great goals and they are things to try to work towards. But I think the biggest thing for guys at the level that we're at is I want to hit over 60 per cent of my fairways.

"I want my proximity [to the hole] inside 150 yards to be a certain number. I want my strokes-gained putting to be a certain number. I can't control if I win five or six times a year.

"There's so many other variables in there. I'd rather set goals that are objective and measurable that I'm in control of.

"I can certainly control if I hit 60 per cent of the fairways and I'd love to get my iron play back to where it was a few years ago. I can control if my stats are better than they were the year before."

Viktor Hovland turned the impossible possible on Sunday, overcoming a six-stroke deficit to win the Hero World Challenge.

Collin Morikawa was five shots clear at the start of the final round as the American closed in on the world number one ranking, but Hovland had other ideas in the Bahamas.

On a chaotic day, Hovland – in his first start since claiming the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba – rallied to a stunning one-shot victory with consecutive eagles and a birdie from the 14th and 16th holes.

Despite bogeying his last two holes, Hovland signed for a 66 and the winners' cheque at 18 under, ahead of Scottie Scheffler (66) in front of tournament host and 15-time major champion Tiger Woods as Morikawa capitulated in a final-round 76.

"I didn't think a win was going to be very possible," said the 24-year-old Norwegian star Hovland. "But I know this course is tricky.

"You can make birdies, but it's easy to make bogeys and doubles. If I put a good score up there, you never know what's going to happen."

An unofficial PGA Tour event, Hovland insisted the win felt like an official one given the star-studded field.

"Hell, yeah! There's only 20 guys in the field, but the players here are really good, and I feel like my wins have come when the field hasn't been as strong, so for me to do well in a field like this gives me a lot of confidence," he added.

Morikawa appeared poised to add another piece of silverware to his collection in pursuit of golf's top ranking, but the reigning Open Championship winner crumbled, missing three birdie chances from 10 feet or closer to start the round.

Two triple-bogeys and a bogey capped a forgettable front nine for Morikawa, who dropped another shot at his final hole to end the event tied for fifth – four shots adrift of Hovland, alongside Justin Thomas (64).

Sam Burns shot a three-under-par 69 to earn a share of third spot with former Masters champion Patrick Reed (69).

A four-time major winner, Brooks Koepka had to settle for a slice of ninth position at Albany Golf Club following his two-over-par 74.

Bryson DeChambeau – beaten by rival Koepka in their exhibition showdown in Las Vegas – closed with consecutive rounds in the 70s after going two over on the fourth day.

Former world number one Rory McIlroy (75) ended the tournament 12 shots back, while Jordan Spieth's nightmare Hero World Challenge resulted in a six-over-par display after shooting a 76.

Bryson DeChambeau carded an eight-under-par 64 to take the lead after the second round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.

World number seven DeChambeau started Friday's session down in 11th but climbed to the top of the standings on 11 under for the tournament with an impressive round.

The 2020 US Open winner double-bogeyed on the par-four 16th after pulling his drive into a bush, but that was the only blemish as he made 10 birdies.

DeChambeau, whose only title this calendar year came at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, is one stroke clear of fellow Americans Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka.

Morikawa will overtake Jon Rahm as the world's number one should he win the tournament, and he would have had a share of the lead if not for a bogey on the 18th.

"When I put myself in the fairway, I was converting, I was making the birdies when I needed to," said Morikawa.

“I still felt like the driver's a little off, but, you know, get my timing a little bit better tomorrow and the next day and we'll be just fine."

Finau began the back nine with a bogey but recovered well with four birdies on the following eight holes to remain in strong contention for the title with two rounds to go.

Rory McIlroy, who held a share of the first-round lead with Daniel Berger and Abraham Ancer, shot a one under-par 71 on Friday to slip four off the pace.

Berger is fifth after a round of 69, while Ancer's 73 – which included five bogeys – saw him drop outside the top 10.

Meanwhile, Sam Burns impressed with seven birdies for a second-round 65 that was bettered only by DeChambeau as he climbed into a tie for sixth alongside Tyrrell Hatton.

Rory McIlroy earned a share of the first-round lead after the former world number one carded a six-under-par 66 at the Hero World Challenge.

McIlroy – winner of October's CJ Cup – was almost flawless on the opening day as the four-time major champion joined Daniel Berger and Abraham Ancer a stroke clear atop the leaderboard.

McIlroy had an eagle, six birdies and a double-bogey at Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas on Thursday.

"It was nice to play the back nine the way I did and put myself back in the tournament," said McIlroy, who did not drop a shot on the back nine with three birdies and an eagle, which he improbably chipped in.

Berger boasted a four-shot advantage at one point in the first round after bursting out the blocks with four consecutive birdies, though two bogeys on the back nine undid some of that good work.

But McIlroy and Ancer ensured the American must share the lead entering Friday's second round, the former going five-under following the turn at the PGA Tour tournament.

Fellow leader Ancer finished in similar style, despite also faltering with a bogey on the ninth, recording five birdies after the halfway point to join the group on six under.

It looked like there would be a different leader, however, with American star Justin Thomas a shot in front until the final hole, which he double-bogeyed.

Brooks Koepka – a four-time major champion – joins the 2017 PGA Championship winner after registering 67, with Webb Simpson also a shot off the initial mark.

The quality on display does not stop there, with Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa all managing 68 to sit two shots off the three-man leading pack ahead of day two.

Rory McIlroy got himself back into the lead at the DP World Tour Championship, holding a slender one-shot advantage heading into the final round of the season.

McIlroy, a three-time European Tour champion, dropped two shots on the 18th on Friday, handing a share of the lead to Sam Horsfield, Shane Lowry and John Catlin in Dubai.

Yet Lowry and Catlin both struck costly one-under par 71s on Saturday, with McIlroy going round in 67 to propel himself back in front.

The Northern Irishman stands on 14 under, though had a wobble on the 17th when he almost found the water. Luck was on his side as the ball nestled on a rock on the water's edge.

McIlory bravely decided to take the shot on, despite the risk the ball could have ricocheted back into the wet. It paid off, with the former world number one getting it across the green and then almost chipping in to make par, but he had to settle for a bogey, his second of the day after an awful tee shot on the opening hole.

He got that shot back with a birdie on the last to put the pressure on Horsfield, who could only bogey to finish on 67 and 13 under for the week heading into what looks set to be an enthralling final day.

"I thought I did well considering the start," said McIlroy, who is hunting his third DP World Tour Championship title.

"I responded well with birdies on two and three, ended up turning on three-under par. The back nine was good, gave myself good chances on 14 and 16 but didn't convert those.

"A bogey on 17 that in the end was a good bogey, I just thought it was important to make birdie at the last to get into the final group."

Robert MacIntyre was the big riser, the Scot going around in five under to take a share of third place with Alexander Bjork. 

MacIntyre's round included a 70-foot birdie and 20-foot eagle on the front nine, while he then birdied four holes out of five only to slip up with a bogey on the 18th.

Level at T5 and within three of the lead with Lowry, Catlin and Joachim Hansen is Collin Morikawa, who still holds a lead in the Race to Dubai rankings.

The 24-year-old - who is aiming to become the first American to win the European Tour – carded a bogey free 69, though will be disappointed to only birdie three holes.

Given none of the other contenders in the Race to Dubai are within six shots of the lead, Morikawa seems all set to be crowned European Tour champion, barring a collapse on Sunday.

Rory McIlroy surrendered a two-shot lead at the DP World Tour Championship, with Shane Lowry one of those to rein him in as Collin Morikawa kept himself at the top of the Race to Dubai standings.

Three-time Race to Dubai winner McIlroy carded a brilliant 65 on Thursday, but he found the water on the last and his double bogey meant he recorded a two-under par 70, giving up the lead heading into the weekend at Jumeirah Golf Estates in the process.

Lowry, the 2019 Open champion, overtook McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard with a bogey-free 65, with American John Catlin left to lament a bogey on the third that ultimately cost him the lead. The duo are joined on 10 under by Sam Horsfield, who followed up Thursday's 68 by going around in 66.

Horsfield had to recover from dropping shots on the 16th and 17th, with a thumping, 369-yard drive setting him up nicely to birdie on the last and take a share of the lead.

"It's two more days left and then the end of a long year-and-a-half, I suppose, long couple of years," said Lowry. 

"I'm looking forward to giving everything and leaving it on the course this weekend and hopefully I'm there near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon."

Meanwhile, history hunting Morikawa kept himself in contention with a second straight score of 68 and sits level on eight-under with Martin Kaymer, one shot adrift of McIlroy and Alexander Bjork, whose sole victory on the European Tour came at the 2018 China Open.

The American currently holds the lead in the Race to Dubai by three shots. If he can hold onto his advantage, he will be the first American to be crowned European Tour champion.

In Morikawa's opinion, however, the best form of defence is attack, as he looks to seal his place in the record books by clinching victory in the United Arab Emirates.

"I'm aware but I've got to focus on the weekend," The Open winner said. "I want to win this tournament. That's all I care about, winning this tournament and everything else will kind of settle itself. 

"That's my focus. We've played a decent two days and we've got two more rounds to go."

Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Tour in 2017, endured a frustrating day as he went round level par, leaving him tied with six others, including Ian Poulter, on two under.

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