England’s Andy Sullivan, who made his Ryder Cup debut last year, shot four birdies on the front nine – his second – to shoot a four-under-par 68 and share the clubhouse lead at eight-under with five others after Friday’s early rounds of the 20th Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
First-round leader Bradley Dredge of Wales carded a 72 to remain eight-under and was joined by Finland Number Two Mikko Korhonen (71), South Africa’s Thomas Aiken (68), and Spaniards Jorge Campillo (67) and Nacho Elvira (69).
English duo Antony Wall (69) and Chris Hanson (69), Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard (68), American Daniel Im (69) and Ireland’s Paul Dunne (70) were tied at seven-under.
World Number 10 Alex Noren (70) and four-time Major winner Ernie Els (70) were among a group at six-under. Chris Paisley celebrated a hole-in-one at the par-three 17th, the Englishman holing out with a nine-iron from 135 yards to win US$150,000 from Qatar Duty Free.
Sullivan carded a second straight 68, but left it late to make a move after opening with 10 straight pars from hole 10. He finally bagged his first birdie of the day at the second and added more at four, seven and eight.
"I feel good. I felt like I've prepared really well for the start of the season and it's nice to finally see some numbers that you would be quite happy with. The last couple of weeks have been a bit frustrating and I felt like it was only a matter of time before I started to play well again, and it's come this week," said Sullivan, who won three European Tour titles in 2015 and had two runner-up finishes last year.
"Even today, it was just frustrating on my first nine. I felt like I hit it really good. I hit a lot of shots close and just didn't quite convert, so when I birdied the second, the floodgates opened and I started holing a few more putts.
"The key is just to be patient tomorrow and Sunday. I feel like I'm swinging it well. Just give myself loads of chances and eventually they will drop. It's a nice position to be in and I’m ready to attack at the weekend."
Leading contenders this week include World Number 10 Alex Noren, 2016 Ryder Cup rookies Rafa Cabrera Bello, Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan, Austria Number One Bernd Wiesberger, Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood, 11-time European Tour winner Martin Kaymer, four-time Ryder Cup star Graeme McDowell and four-time Major winner Ernie Els.