McGrane's star continues to rise
Damien McGrane continues to break new ground after carding a second straight 69 for a six-under par tally following two rounds of the Qatar Masters in Doha.
McGrane heads into the weekend as the leading Irish player and six shots adrift of the in-form Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa who carded a seven-under 65 to head the field by three strokes on 12-under par.
Oosthuizen, who was runner-up last week in Abu Dhabi, admitted he always use to take a "big temper" onto the golf course, but now, with the help of coach Peter Cowan, the 26-year old is reaping the benefits of playing with a lot less aggression.
Scotland's Andrew Coltart, winner of the inaugural Qatar Masters in 1999, is in second spot after adding a 69 to finish on nine-under, one clear of Spain's big-hitting Alvaro Quiros who, with Belfast caddy Dave McNeilly calling the shots, birdied his closing three holes in a 67.
Also sharing third place on eight- under is Australian former Irish Open champion Brett Rumford, who is back competing full-time in Europe after losing his card in his maiden US Tour season last year.
McGrane's opening score on Thursday was the first time in six appearances in the Qatar capital that he has managed to break the par of 72 in the opening round -- in fact, the reigning Volvo China Open champion had also never broken par in a second round.
The stats show that in his 16 previous rounds in Doha up to this week, McGrane has only twice been in the 60s and that was with respective third day scores of 66 and 68 last year and in 2006.
"I've just played a lot of good shots this week. I've picked off my birdie chances and am keeping my bogeys down to a minimum," he said.
Gary Murphy made it three halfway cuts in succession for the new season with his second successive 71.
Murphy birdied two holes in a row early on, but was unfortunately in the middle of his round when the wet and windy conditions were at their worst.
More than three hours earlier, Rory McIlroy had eagled the ninth whereas Murphy needed a driver, rescue club,
3-iron and then 9-iron to finally get onto the green before taking a bogey six.
"The holes measures 640 yards and it was playing more like 720 yards so the par this afternoon was a six," he said.
"But I played pretty steady hitting lots of greens and if I can play the same and sink a few more putts who knows."
McIlroy made amends for a first-round 76 by ending the second day's play by holing a 15-footer for birdie at his 17th and then sinking a 40-footer in a 68 to make the halfway cut right on the level par mark.
"It was just two holes that cost me yesterday, so it was nice to come back from that bad round and shoot 68.
Darren Clarke (73, 73), Peter Lawrie (72, 75) and Paul McGinley (76, 72) all missed the cut as did American aces, Boo Weekley and Brandt Snedeker.
Weekley had travelled 23 hours from Hawaii as the European Tour's newest member and now won't be back until July's Barclays Scottish Open after rounds of 74 and 73. Snedeker carded scores of 72 and 73 to miss the cut by a single shot.
And, in an administration bungle, Snedeker revealed he failed to join the European Tour ahead of the start of the Qatar Masters, so he still has to play 12 events if he is serious about retaining full membership for 2010.
Qatar Masters, Live, Sky Sports 2, 09.30