McDowell has Stadler within range of fire
An Irish posse had gathered going into the weekend at the Open de France as American Kevin Stadler threatened to turn July 4 into a Yankee Doddle.
If was far from dandy for Stadler on his final hole, the ninth, however, when the 34-year-old stumbled to a double-bogey seven.
Yet after signing for a second round 68, Stadler, winner of February's Phoenix Open, was still very much in the driving seat on 10-under, three ahead of his nearest challenger Victor Riu (29), a local journeyman ranked No 512 in the world.
With respect to Riu, the real challenge to Stadler, son of former Masters champion Craig and therefore known as 'Smallrus', over the next 36 holes is likely to come from further back, where there are four Irish aces in the frame.
Though a little loose from tee to green, defending champion Graeme McDowell ground out a two-under par 69 to share fourth place on three-under with fellow Ulsterman Michael Hoey.
After matching the low round of an overcast, blustery day with a superb 66 on one of the most demanding courses on the European schedule, Hoey has the game to go hunting for a sixth Tour victory.
An exquisite ball-striker on his day, he nipped past Major Champions McDowell and Rory McIlroy down the stretch in the 2011 Dunhill Links at St Andrews.
Lying one back in a share of 11th place with recently-crowned Players Champion and US Open-winner Martin Kaymer is Damien McGrane, the flint-tough Kells man delighted at last to make a little headway with a 69 in a season otherwise bereft of momentum.
"I did a lot of hanging on out there, holed three or four decent putts for par and then had a super finish," said McGrane.
It's a difficult course but I hit a lot of good tee shots as well," added McGrane, who tied third here in 2007 and enjoyed three other top-20 finishes at the French Open.
Gareth Maybin matched Kaymer's 68 but lay a shot behind the German and McGrane in a share of 17th.
Padraig Harrington's Friday woes continued as he bogeyed eight and nine, his closing holes, and missed by two his eighth cut in 16 this year on five over par after yesterday's 73. The statistics told the sorry tale. The Dubliner racked-up 66 putts in his two rounds, including 35 yesterday.
Peter Lawrie (on seven-over after a 77), Simon Thornton (nine-over after a 74), David Higgins (13-over after a 76) and Kevin Phelan (14-over after an 80) also missed-out. Paul McGinley withdrew on Thursday morning with bursitis in his shoulder.
Meanwhile, Darren Clarke's hopes of making the weekend at The Greenbrier expired when he limped to the turn in three over yesterday after following a bogey four at eight with a six at nine.He'd sign for a three-over 73 to missed his ninth cut in 12 on four-over.
A sensational second round 63 at TPC Old White placed Billy Hurley, 32, in the early clubhouse lead on nine-under, one ahead of Kevin Chappell (66) and Chris Stroud (65), giving the Virginian high hopes of his first PGA Tour victory.
Elsewhere, Philip Walton hit all 13 fairways in the Swiss Alps yesterday as a one-under par 69 earned him a share of 10th, seven shy of first round leader Rick Gibson of Canada, in the Bad Ragaz Seniors PGA Open.
Denis O'Sullivan was one back in 19th after his 70, while Des Smyth was 44th after wayward 73.
Meadow's 71 sees her through to weekend
STEPHANIE MEADOW made birdie two at The Buckinghamshire's final hole for a one-under par 71 that saw her through to the weekend in her first Ladies European Tour event, the ISPS Handa Masters.
Meadow (22), a sensational third in the US Open last Sunday week on her professional debut, shared 22nd place on even par yesterday with her playing companion and former Curtis Cup teammate Charley Hull.
Both were outshone by the third member of the three-ball, World No 1 Amateur Minjee Lee (18), whose second round 68 sent her soaring into a share of fourth on five-under, just four shy of the lead held by fellow Aussie Sarah Kemp.
Grant enjoying game with smaller ball
STEPHEN GRANT (37), the former Shamrock Rovers winger plying his trade in pro golf, was Ireland's leading contender in a tie for 21st on three-under at the Aegean Airlines Challenge after a second round 71 at Bad Giesbach in Germany.
Grant was still just three off the lead despite making bogey at 18 for the second day in a row. Niall Kearney (72) and Gareth Shaw (73) were also in contention on one-under, though, remarkably, Shaw made two double-bogey sixes at 18 in the first two rounds! Alan Dunbar missed the cut on 10-over after a 78.
OPEN DE FRANCE, Live Sky Sports 4, 1.00pm
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