South African Thomas Aiken, Dane Andres Hansen and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy lead at 8 under but just one shot back and poised perhaps to win his first event in 15 months is the two time winner of this event Tiger Woods.
McIlroy began the day with the lead but four bogeys in his first seven holes saw him fall off the pace before he turned the momentum around with a birdie at the 9th. He finished with 75 but is perhaps still the player to beat.
Aiken too started slowly and was struggling in the difficult windy conditions before a birdie at the 14th opened up the opportunity for his first European Tour victory.
Hansen has won three times on the European Tour, two of those the Tour's flagship event, the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth. Hansen missed the cut last week in Qatar but has been in good form in the previous few weeks. A win or perhaps event a top three finish will move him from his current 70th in the world ranking to inside the top 64 and earn him a start at the Accenture Match Play Championship in two weeks time.
Woods struggled through his first nine but as he so often does he found a way to keep himself in the tournament. He eagled the 10th and birdied the 11th and was very quickly back in the thick of things. A birdie at the last not only aided his cause in terms of his position but made those ahead very much aware that he is breathing down their necks.
The large group at 7 under and tied with Woods also includes a resurgent Sergio Garcia, the in-form Alvaro Quiros and the leading Australian Brett Rumford. Also at 7 under is the Spaniard Alvaro Velasco who improved from the cut mark to contention with his round of the day, 65.
Rumford recorded a round of 72 and after missing the cut last week he is knocking on the door of his best finish since finishing runner-up at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles last August.
World number one Lee Westwood is at 5 under and only three behind.
Other Australasians to make the cut were Scott Strange who is at 5 under and in 13th position, Mark Brown who folded with a round of 79 to be 61st and Danny Lee whose round of 78 has him last of those who made the weekend.