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5 September 2008

McIlroy and Rumford lead in Switzerland


Nineteen year old Rory McIlroy no longer leads on his own, but he still has a great chance to become the youngest winner on The European Tour since Seve Ballesteros won the first of his record 50 titles.

Watching American football on television at 4am might not have been the greatest preparation for what lay ahead, but in tough conditions at the Omega European Masters the Northern Ireland youngster added a level par 71 to his brilliant opening 63.


Defending champion Brett Rumford was the player to close the three-stroke overnight gap, a second successive 67 putting the Australian on eight under alongside McIlroy at halfway.


After his lowest round as a professional - by three - it was inevitable McIlroy could not completely switch off back at his hotel, where he ended up watching television deep into the night.


"I just want to take it one step at a time, but I caught myself thinking about it last night and put the tennis on to take my mind off it," he said.


"Then I had to get up for a drink at about 4am and the New York Giants were playing the Washington Redskins, so I watched a bit of that."


He was prepared for the fact that he could not reproduce his opening day fireworks.


"It's always difficult to follow up such a low round with another one. I've learnt that before. You rarely see someone shoot 63-64, so that 71 was a pretty good effort."


He would be the third youngest winner in Tour history if he does take the first prize, just five days older than Ballesteros was at the 1976 Dutch Open.


Dale Hayes holds the record, with the South African aged only 18 when he lifted the 1971 Spanish Open.


Rumford could also be linked to Ballesteros on Sunday. The Spanish star was the last player to make a successful defence of the title in 1978.


Rumford said: “Conditions are getting tough. This is how it played at the Pro-Am and the greens dried out and the course changed completely from Wednesday to Thursday with all the rain.


“As we all know it only takes on day of good weather to get these greens reacting so differently. I guess this will be the day. The weekend will be a completely different. After the rain yesterday afternoon without the wind we got the better half of the draw and the scoring will be evident of that after today's play.”


Finland's Mikko Ilonen took over top spot in the afternoon, but bogeyed four of his last five holes to go back to five under and into a group which also includes Miguel Angel Jimenez.


Joint third on seven under are Spain's Alejandro Canizares, Frenchman Jean-Francois Lucquin and Argentina's Juan Abbate, while Simon Dyson, Peter Lawrie and Frederik Andersson Hed are on six under.