Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer, Ryder Cup team-mates who both ended last year lifting a trophy, are part of a four-way tie for the halfway lead at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
But Paul Lawrie, another of Europe's heroes in Chicago, saw his defence of the title come to a premature end after a four-putt double bogey on the 15th hole. He missed the cut by a single stroke.
Playing partner Garcia shot 66 and Kaymer returned a 67 to be alongside Australian Marcus Fraser and Portugal's Ricardo Santos on nine under par.
Garcia underwent laser eye surgery to correct a stigmatism following the victory over the Americans in September, but finished 2012 with a round of 61 for a three-shot win at the Johor Open in Malaysia.
That came two weeks after Kaymer, the man who sank the putt to retain the Ryder Cup and leapt into the Spaniard's arms, took the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa by two.
While the German played in Abu Dhabi last week and came joint, sixth this is Garcia's first appearance of the season.
Michael Hoey is best of the Irish, four shots off the lead on five under following a 69, with Damien McGrane a shot further back after a 72.
Peter Lawrie and Gareth Maybin are on one under after both carded 71s, while Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley shot a disappointing 75 and misses the cut.
"It was nice - I definitely felt I played a little bit better than yesterday," 32-year-old Garcia said after his six birdies. "Obviously I would have loved to hit a couple of shots better, but I gave myself a lot of chances and I can't be disappointed."
"The wind started picking up a bit and it made it tough enough to choose the right clubs. We tried to play smart and managed to do that fairly nicely."
First-round leader Santos followed up his 65 with a 70, making a fine up and down from the bunker at the par five last, while Fraser did the same on the long ninth to complete his 67.
World number four Justin Rose made his first cut in five visits to Doha - "that's almost like leading the tournament round here," he joked - but with a 71 for five under last week's runner-up has four strokes to make up and lies joint 20th.
Rose, penalised a shot on the opening day when his ball moved as he prepared to tap in on the 17th, had only himself to blame for a bogey six at the 591-yard first.
That was his 10th hole of the round and he sent his second shot way right into the desert scrub and needed three more just to make the green.
"That made me a bit flat, to be honest with you," Rose said.
He dropped another after driving into sand on the 10th, but made a 15-footer for birdie at the short eighth.
Open champion Ernie Els, winner in 2005, made it through with nothing to spare on one under, but twice champion Lawrie was unable to recover from his nightmare four holes from home.
The Scot's long birdie attempt from the front fringe finished three feet from the flag and he three-putted from there before missing a six-foot chance to survive on the last.
The four leaders are a stroke ahead of England's Gary Lockerbie, South African George Coetzee, Chilean Felipe Aguilar, New Zealand's ex-US Open champion Michael Campbell and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, joint second with Rose in Abu Dhabi last Sunday.