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McDowell's in Ryder groove as 68 puts him one off Austria lead

IRISHMAN Graeme McDowell continued his fine form at the Austrian Open in Atzenbrugg with a sparkling 68 to sit one shot off the lead after the second round yesterday.

The Ulsterman, returning to action for the first time since last month's US PGA Championship, conjured up five birdies to move to seven-under (137), three shots clear of European Ryder Cup team-mate Miguel Angel Jimenez, who also went round in 68.

Britain's John Parry hit a five-under par 67, carding five birdies without dropping a shot, to hold the midway lead.

"It's very much the old cliche of a game of two halves, this golf course," said world number 14 McDowell.

"This front nine's quite tricky and you've got to drive the ball unbelievably well to have any chance of making birdies," added the Irishman, who lies second on the European Tour money list behind another Ryder Cup team-mate, Martin Kaymer of Germany.

McDowell had held the clubhouse lead on seven under alongside Spain's Jose Manuel Lara, only for world number 317 Parry to overtake them with the joint-best round of the day.


The 23-year-old Challenge Tour graduate had a flawless round with five birdies to take top spot by one shot, but he admitted there was plenty of golf left to be played.

"It's a bit early to be looking at leaderboards -- we're only in the second round," said Parry, a former Walker Cup team-mate of Irish youngster Rory McIlroy.

"It is a lead, though, so I'm happy going into the weekend in front.

"I'd always prefer to be in the lead than not."

A good finish at the Diamond Country Club should be enough to secure Parry's card for next season -- something Lara is looking to achieve as well.

"I still feel young in myself, but there are many young Spanish guys coming up now and already have their cards," said the 33-year-old, who could not match his opening 66 as he signed for a 71.

"I need to fight this year and that's what I'm doing."

McDowell is playing his last tournament before the Ryder Cup match against the USA at Celtic Manor in Wales, which takes place over the weekend of October 1-3.