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Jaidee in front after rory slip

Asian No1 Thongchai Jaidee carded a bogey-free second round of 66 to claim a one-shot halfway lead at the Dubai Desert Classic today.

World No59 Thongchai, who posted two European Tour victories last season, is reaping the benefits of hours spent on the putting green to fine tune the weakest aspect of his game.

"I played very consistently, it was a solid day," said the 40-year-old former paratrooper.

"I hit 13 greens in regulation and missed just five fairways. I am confident because my putting's getting better; that's why my game's getting better."

Defending champion Rory McIlroy (70), Edoardo Molinari (70), Alvaro Quiros (69), Australia's Marcus Fraser (68) and Charl Schwartzel (70) are all well placed at six under, with a two-shot gap to Paul Casey (71), Graeme McDowell (68) and Jeev Milkha Singh (72).

Ireland's McIlroy had earlier looked in ominous form, the world No9 briefly establishing a three-shot lead following a run of four consecutive birdies around the turn. But the 20-year-old found water at the last to card a double-bogey and round of 70.

"I am still happy where I am heading into the weekend. Apart from the mistake at the last it was another really good day's work. I putted really solidly, made a few birdies around the turn and also could have made a few more," said McIlroy.

"There is a little bit of a sour taste in the mouth after the last hole. I had not made a mistake all day and to do it at the last was disappointing, but if I make two birdies in the first two holes tomorrow all is forgotten."

Italian amateur Matteo Manassero carded a 72 to comfortably beat the cut at a second successive European Tour event, while eight-time major winner Tom Watson is two shots further back after a 70.

Meanwhile, a brief chat with coach Butch Harmon and Champions Tour golfer Dave Stockton helped world No2 Phil Mickelson move into contention at the Northern Trust Open yesterday.

After a lacklustre one-over 72 in the first round, the left-handed American shot a five-under 66 in the second following a discussion about his game on Thursday night with the duo.

"I felt I wasn't far off after (the first round) even though the score didn't reflect it," said Mickelson, who moved into a tie for 11th, six shots behind leaders Dustin Johnson and Steve Stricker. "I had a good conversation last night (with them) and I think it settled in today. I was able to make the last adjustment and it felt great. I hit the ball much better and putted much better."

The statistics backed up Mickelson's assessment, the American needing only 26 putts compared to Thursday's 32. He also found more greens and fairways despite playing in steady rain.

"It was a difficult day," Mickelson said. "It was playing long and it was important to hit some good drives. I hit some decent tee shots and was able to play aggressive from there. "I'm in a position where a good round (today) and I can get in contention for Sunday."

Ireland's Padraig Harrington got his second round off to the best possible start when he birdied the par-five first. He added another at the third to move to one under, before dropped shots at four and nine saw him turn at one over for the tournament.