Graeme McDowell produced a shot of genius from the Severiano Ballesteros playbook as he moved within a stroke of the lead in the Saab Wales Open yesterday.
McDowell stayed on course to retain his title when a birdie at the last for a three-under-par 68 pulled him within one stroke of pacesetter Alexander Noren.
He is on seven-under with two rounds totalling 135, seven shots better than he was at the halfway stage last year, when he won by three after weekend rounds of 64 and 63.
Only the Swede Noren is ahead of him now after a second successive 67 for an eight-under total of 134.
McDowell's stroke from the late Spaniard's arsenal of miraculous escapes came at the short 10th, where he finished under the lip of a bunker. But, playing the shot with one foot in the sand and the other leg bent outside the trap, he blasted out to two feet for par.
"The guys told me Seve would have been proud of that one," he said. "That was a sweet shot. The ball was under the lip. Not a shot you can practice much.
"That was huge momentum because I had just birdied eight and nine and I birdied the next two."
McDowell is trying to replicate his double of last year when he won here and added the US Open title two weeks later at Pebble Beach. This year's US Open is at Congressional in a fortnight.
"I feel my game is ticking over nicely. There is no cause for alarm in any department. My irons are good and I putted a little better today," he said. "This is absolutely perfect preparation. My game is in good shape so it's nice to back it up with some good golf."
Darren Clarke, meanwhile, got to four-under but gave it back on the second nine with two bogeys and a double for a 74 and a level-par 142.
"The longest putt I holed was a five-footer for the second putt on nine to save par. I just could not read the greens. I had no idea on the greens today at all. The greens are indifferent, a bit strange," Clarke said.
Michael Hoey, winner two weeks ago in Madeira, made the cut by two shots after a second successive 71 for level-par 142. Damien McGrane shot 73 for 140. Shane Lowry also shot 73 to be three-over and just missed the cut, while Colm Moriarty had a 75 for 147.
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