Luke Donald fired a course-record 65 in the Scandinavian Masters to send European captain Bernhard Langer a timely reminder ahead of the Ryder Cup.
Donald carded seven birdies and no bogeys at Barseback for a 10-under-par halfway total of 134 and three-shot lead over fellow cup hopeful Paul McGinley and Sweden’s Johan Edfors.
Colin Montgomerie birdied four of his last five holes for a 68 to lie four under, Nick Faldo finished one under after a 72 but pre-tournament favourite Lee Westwood crashed out after a 77.
Donald is currently 14th in the Ryder Cup world ranking list with only the top five to qualify automatically for the European team which will defend the trophy at Oakland Hills in September.
Even a first European Tour victory here on Sunday would only move him up to 10th in the standings, but he is a genuine contender for one of the two wildcards available to Langer given his experience of playing in America and excellent Walker Cup record – he won seven of his eight matches in Britain and Ireland’s victories in 1999 and 2001.
“I’ve had a good year so far in America and it’s nice to come over to Europe and play some good golf over here just to remind everyone I still exist and am still European,” said the 26-year-old, whose round was his lowest in Europe by three shots.
“These few weeks are very important and if I can play well and sneak a win then it’s going to get Bernhard Langer’s attention.
“I have an outside chance of a wildcard I think, I would hope I would be on his mind at least.
“I had a lot of fun playing in the Walker Cup, that team experience playing match play is something I relish and playing in a Ryder Cup is what every professional wants on their resume.”
Donald was not even eligible for the contest until recently because he and other US-based players were unwilling to commit themselves to playing 11 European Tour events in order to be eligible.
But he rejoined when the European Tour agreed he and the others need only play all 11 events if they made the team – without that agreement they could have been banned from the European Tour for up to two years – and is already planning his schedule if he makes the team even though there are important issues to be settled on the US Tour.
“Right now I’m 29th on the money list in America and there are a few things to play for,” he added.
“Top 30 gets you into the Tour Championship and I think top 40 gets you in the Masters. There are considerations there but I’ll have to deal with that when I come to it.”
McGinley, who holed the winning putt in the last Ryder Cup at The Belfry in 2002, is also battling to make the team and currently lies 16th in the overall standings.
Victory here and the £176,000 first prize would get him into the automatic places however, and an error-free second round 68 left him on seven under par.
“I’m personally very desperate to make the side again as I had a great experience the last time,” said the Dubliner.
“I would love to play again but it is still in the melting pot.
“I am about two hundred grand out of making the side at the moment with five tournaments to go, so we will see what happens.”
Montgomerie, who won two of his three Scandinavian Masters titles at Barseback and is favourite to claim one of the two wildcards, said: “That was the finish I wanted and although four under is not leading, it’s okay.
“I was losing concentration after bogeys at my 12th and 13th but to birdie four of the last five holes was a real bonus.
“I still need to befriend Bernhard Langer and fortunately I am on good terms with him but it is still up to him and it’s choice.
“If he goes for experience then I miif he doesn’t I won’t be, but it will be up to him and that’s why we made him captain. He will make the right decision.”
The 41-year-old Scot unusually headed to the practice range for the second day running after his round, explaining: “I have been pulling the ball this week for some reason and I am on the range this afternoon to learn how to fade the ball.
“I was on the phone to my coach Denis Pugh last night asking him, ’How do you fade the ball?’ and he said, ‘My God, you wrote the book on it, so what are you asking me for?’
“But I have been putting reasonably well and it’s amazing how well that gets you out of any little indifferent situations.”