(CNN) -- Lee Westwood showed he will not give up his world No. 1 ranking without a fight as he claimed third place at the halfway stage of the Dubai World Championship on Friday.
The Englishman, who won the European Tour's season-ending event last year to claim the Race To Dubai money list title, shot five-under-par 67 to be just one shot off the lead.
His compatriots and Ryder Cup teammates Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher moved to the summit on nine-under 135 after carding second rounds of 66 and 64 respectively.
Martin Kaymer, this year's Race To Dubai leader and the only threat to Westwood's No. 1 status, was tied for fourth on 137 after carding 70.
The German's top rival for the money-list title, his Ryder Cup teammate Graeme McDowell, fell further off the pace with a 73 which left him tied for 42nd on 145.
Westwood, playing just his second tournament in five weeks due to a long-term calf problem, started in fine style with three consecutive birdies but bogeys at the fifth and 15th slowed his progress before he picked up another shot at 17.
"That's the sort of start you want to make after a slowish first round," he told the European Tour website.
"I played well, I hit a lot of good shots. I made a couple of mistakes out there, the bogeys were really sloppy.
"I really ought to have made a few more putts, I had a lot of chances and burned the hole a few times, so 67 was about the worst it could be for me. Over the weekend I feel I've got a couple of real low scores in me."
Westwood played alongside last week's Hong Kong Open champion Poulter, who started with four birdies in a row before carding two more at 15 and 17 in a flawless round.
Fisher also went around without dropping a shot, starting with two birdies and firing three in a row from 12 for eight in total.
"I think Lee was on another planet with 23 under par last year," Poulter said. "It's not that easy a golf course. You have to hit it solid off the tee to give yourself a decent look at hitting it close. Twenty-three under won't be reached this week."
Kaymer, who had three birdies and two bogeys in his front nine, was level with England's Paul Casey (67) and Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee (69).
"I'm still two behind but we have 36 holes to go and I can still win," the 25-year-old U.S. PGA Championship winner said. "Today I didn't really have the chances, so it was an okay score."
U.S. Open champion McDowell birdied three of his first seven holes, but then two bogeys in a row and more at 12 and 15 scuppered his hopes.
"I don't think I have a huge amount in the tank and I'm finding it tough to scramble. There are enough good shots in there to give myself a chance, but I'm getting frustrated very quickly," said McDowell, playing his fifth week in a row.
"Just simple, stupid mistakes -- the sign of a man whose head is not very sharp. But I'm going to give it 100 percent -- everything I have left -- and it's not over. Two 65s are not out of the question.
First-round leader Robert Karlsson of Sweden dropped down to a tie for 12th on 140 as the 2008 European No. 1 carded a disastrous 75 featuring four bogeys and a double at 12.