The world No. 1 has posted 66-67 through the first two rounds to get to 11-under and is tied for the lead with Marc Warren.
Warren, in his sixth year on the European Tour, came into the final event of the year ranked No. 55 on the European Tour and No. 189 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
McIlroy wrapped up the Race to Dubai after his third place finish two weeks ago in Singapore. He is only the second player to ever win the money titles on both the European and PGA Tours in the same year. Luke Donald accomplished that feat for the first time last year.
McIlroy missed the cut last week in Hong Kong and flew to Dubai to get some R&R with girlfriend and professional tennis player Caroline Wozniacki.
The couple has been taking turns posting embarrassing pictures of each other on twitter.
McIlroy has been complaining that he was tired and it appears that the down time has helped his game.
Donald fired a second round 67 to go with his first round 65 and is tied with McIlroy and Warren for the lead.
Three South Africans are within two shots of the leaders. Super rookie Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen are one shot back at 10-under par. Charl Schwartzel is 9-under par.
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