Lowry and Lawrie still in the mix despite seventh hell
IRELAND'S Shane Lowry and Peter Lawrie both enter the weekend at the Scottish Open in hot pursuit of a second European Tour victory and the chance to win a place in next week's British Open.
Clara hero Lowry (25) and Dubliner Lawrie (38) both compiled second-round 69s at Castle Stuart to join defending champion Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer, among others, in a 10-way tie for sixth on nine-under.
They were just three shy of leaders Alexander Noren and Francesco Molinari. Swede Noren opened with back-to-back 66s, while Italian Molinari followed Thursday's course-record 62 with a 70, including a triple-bogey seven at seven.
Ironically, Lawrie and Lowry also endured frustration at that challenging par four.
After stirring memories of his sensational 2009 Irish Open win as an amateur with six birdies and just one bogey in his first 11 holes, Lowry drove into the right rough then landed in trouble left of the seventh green before missing a short putt for bogey.
Lawrie, winner of the 2008 Open de Espana, shared the early lead after playing his first 11 holes in a fault-free, five-under in the morning. Yet he dropped shots out of a bad lie in the rough at five before missing a par putt of 40 inches at seven.
Still, both Irishmen looked forward to an exciting weekend. "If someone had offered me nine-under after 36 holes on Thursday morning, I'd have taken their hand off," said Lawrie.
Phil Mickelson found his links 'touch' in spectacular fashion with a superb 64, to share with Ricardo Gonzalez and Matteo Manassero the honour of posting the equal low round of a benign, but chilly second day.
After a 73 on Thursday in keeping with recent subdued form in the US, Mickelson opened with a pitch-in eagle on the 360 yards 10th yesterday, before showing he'd found the pace of grainy, relatively slow greens with six birdies, including four in a row through the turn.
Mickelson (42) was especially pleased with his performance on the greens yesterday. "The biggest challenge to me in adjusting to links golf has not been the wind or playing the ball along the ground," he said. "It's been putting on the fescues that grow on the greens, the stronger grains."
Yesterday's effort propelled Mickelson into a share of 20th on seven-under, one ahead of Padraig Harrington, who seems to be making headway in his effort build confidence in his green-reading.
The Dubliner holed several superb putts during yesterday's 69, including a deft seven-foot par-saver after missing the green at the short 11th, while the 25-footer he sank for birdie at 17 was one of the highlights of Harrington's day.
His recent form has put Harrington in the frame for next week's Open and he visited Lytham last Monday. Armed with a spirit-level, the Irishman did extensive work on the subtle greens there and discovered that his 'reads' were reassuringly precise.
Sadly, Paul McGinley's last hopes of playing at Lytham expired when he missed the cut by two yesterday on two-under after back-to-back rounds of 71.
• A second round one-under par 70 sent Glasson favourite Colm Moriarty into the weekend at the Credit Suisse Challenge in Lucerne on five-under, three behind joint leaders Garry Houston of Wales and Finn Janne Mommo. Stephen Grant missed the cut on one-over after a 73.
• American Webb Simpson, winner of last month's US Open, withdrew from the field for Royal Lytham as expected last night because his wife is due to give birth in two weeks' time.
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