SHANGHAI -- Rory McIlroy turned on the style Friday, yet still could not catch Peter Hanson in the second round of the BMW Masters on the European Tour.
With Welshman Jamie Donaldson struggling badly after his course-record 62 on Thursday -- he crashed from four clear to six behind with a 74 -- two of Europe's Ryder Cup stars took over at the top.
World No. 1 McIlroy grabbed seven birdies for a 65 that lifted him to 12 under, but he trails Hanson by two after the 35-year-old's nine-birdie 64.
They have opened up a gap over the rest of the star-studded field. Hanson's compatriot Robert Karlsson is three strokes further back in third after he also shot 64 to burst out of the pack.
Hanson, the only member of Jose Maria Olazabal's side not to have something to show for his efforts in Chicago last month, actually began his day's work with a bogey. But then came a birdie at the long third, four in succession from the fifth and then three more in a row from the 11th.
The five-time European Tour winner added another at the 612-yard 15th, but now he faces a head-to-head battle with a player who won the 2011 Shanghai Masters on the same Lake Malaren course and is seeking his fifth victory of the season.
McIlroy turned in 32, picking up shots at the second, third, eighth and ninth, and then had a hat trick of birdies from the 13th on another day of low scoring.
Ireland's Shane Lowry, winner of the Portugal Masters two weeks ago, also recorded a 64 and leapt from 48th to a tie for fourth with Justin Rose, another of the Medinah heroes, Donaldson and another Swede, Alex Noren.
Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer and Nicolas Colsaerts are among those one further back on 7 under, but Olazabal himself slipped from fourth to 21st with a disappointing 72.
McIlroy sounded a warning to his rivals in his BMW Masters title defense with his flashy 65, notching seven birdies to be at 12 under for the tournament. His fifth round of 65 this season was capped by three birdies in succession from the 13th hole.
"When I did need to make a par here or there, I was able to save those, and I'm in a great position going into the weekend," he said.
McIlroy hasn't won a regular European Tour event since last year's UBS Hong Kong Open. Of his four wins this year, all in America, only the PGA Championship has counted toward the European Tour money list. Yet McIlroy leads the list, and was four shots clear of Rose, his nearest rival in the Race to Dubai.
"It looks quite routine at the moment," he said. "The more you put yourself in this position, the more comfortable you become with it. I like the fact that most weeks I tee it up, I can get myself in contention.
"This is just another one of those weeks, and I'll try and continue that for as long as I can."
However, Hanson also said he was relaxed about his form and game.
Winning his fifth European Tour title at the KLM Open and his second straight Ryder Cup have imbued in him a high comfort level.
"The biggest difference in my career compared to earlier times, is that I am playing better in the bigger events like the majors and the World Golf Championships that has helped my confidence quite a lot," Hanson said. "Also, being a part of the Ryder Cup team, and being high up the world rankings, you feel you maybe belong a bit more competing alongside the best players."
Hanson bogeyed his opening hole but quickly rebounded to enjoy a run of nine birdies in a 13-hole span.
"It's amazing how many good rounds can start with a bogey," he said. "The key to my good two rounds is that I've birdied all the par 5s, which can help dramatically around this place."
Hanson matched his lowest score on the tour for the eighth time.
Karlsson seeks to end a near two-year winless drought since capturing the season-ending 2010 Dubai World Championship.
However, the Monaco-based Swede admitted he's also concerned with retaining his PGA Tour card for 2013. He was 158th on the PGA Tour money list and needs to be 125th by the end of the season, which was why he's entered the PGA Tour finale in Florida next month.
He wants to avoid trip to Q-School, which clashes with the European Tour finale in Dubai, but doesn't think he can get around it.
"At the end of the day I am in a very fortunate position as I have another year of exemption for the European Tour," he said.
"There are a lot of players in a lot worse situation than I am, so I am not complaining. I haven't had a good year and you have to accept the consequences. So a good result this week, and what with the huge world ranking points on offer, will help with the confidence to put together some decent rounds."