A swashbuckling finish yielding five birdies in six holes catapulted Rory McIlroy up the Dubai World Championship leaderboard on Thursday as he seized the early initiative in his money-list battle with Luke Donald.
The US Open champion returned a six-under-par 66 while US PGA Tour money-winner Donald, bidding to become the first player to land the orders of merit on both sides of the Atlantic, struggled to a 72.
McIlroy made a bad start, losing his ball after slicing his second shot into bushes and racking up a double-bogey seven.
The 22-year-old Northern Irishman dropped another shot at the eighth but bounced back in determined fashion, roaring home in 30 strokes with birdies at the 10th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 18th.
Donald toiled in the face of McIlroy's assault, bogeying three holes in a row from the 14th.
The 34-year-old Englishman has a lead of $1.02 million over second-placed McIlroy at the top of the European money-list and needs to finish in the top eight here to end the season as No. 1.