Welshman Stuart Manley remained the man to catch at the Portugal Masters in Vilamoura today – as Colin Montgomerie missed yet another cut.
Manley, a lowly 174th on the Order of Merit and looking for a top-three finish to rescue his European Tour career, followed up his opening 65 – his lowest-ever round on the circuit – with a 68 to stand 11 under par at halfway.
That was two ahead of 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie and Swede Magnus Carlsson, but Montgomerie was not even in the top 100 after slumping to a 76 and five-over aggregate.
Without a top-20 finish since his second place at the French Open in June the eight-time Tour number one has now missed the cut in four of his last five tournaments.
With earnings of less than £60,000 (€76,861) for his travels all over the world Manley, a hero of the 2003 Walker Cup at Ganton, still needs to more than triple that if he is to avoid a return to the qualifying school next month.
He lost the lead by going to the turn in only a level-par 36, but then came an eagle on the 547-yard 12th and birdies at the 15th and 16th.
Lawrie has not won for more than six years, but he burst through the field with a sparkling 65.
“The Scottish Open this year was the first time in a long while when I’ve felt I could win and I’m much more relaxed,” said the 39-year-old from Aberdeen.
“Who wants to go to work and not do your job properly? But I never got to the point where I didn’t want to do it any more.”
Darren Clarke, partnering Montgomerie, climbed to five under, but then finished with a double-bogey six after driving into deep rough.
“I missed two greens and dropped three shots,” said the Ulsterman after his 69. “I’m playing lovely and hitting an awful lot of good shots, but finishing with a double is never going to leave me feeling too good.”
Order of Merit leader Robert Karlsson, three under and joint 17th overnight, was among the later starters.
The Swede was playing with Lee Westwood and Miguel Angel Jimenez, third and fourth on the money list, but they badly needed to step things up after managing only rounds of 72 and 73 respectively yesterday.