Thomas Aiken fired a brilliant 64 to take the halfway lead during the second round of the Omega European Masters, but the South African faces a tough weekend trying to hang on to top spot, with former winner Bradley Dredge and Miguel Angel Jiménez leading a chasing pack bursting with quality.
Simon Dyson, the man in form after his KLM Open win two weeks ago, and Ryder Cup star Paul McGinley share fourth spot with England’s Ross McGowan and Angelo Que of the Philippines.
Back on the Crans-sur-Sierre course in Switzerland where he had his last win three years ago, Dredge had a second round 65 to move one behind Aiken’s ten under leading score before Jiménez joined the party with a 68 in the tougher afternoon conditions.
Wales will be staging The Ryder Cup for the first time next year at The Celtic Manor Resort and Dredge, a former World Cup winner, said: "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"The Ryder Cup is my goal - that's it - and while I've had a disappointing year so far the season starts here."
This is the first qualifying event for the European side - Captain Colin Montgomerie has already said he would love a Welshman to make it - and Dredge is nine under par at halfway.
Aiken's 64 took him to ten under as the South African showed the form that saw him go close to winning The Open Championship at Turnberry earlier in the year.
“It’s been a fantastic season,” said Aiken. “I’ve performed in the big events like The Open and the World Golf Championship event but unfortunately I haven’t had a win yet. But I’ll just keep plodding along and it’ll be great if I can cap it off with a win, especially this weekend.”
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, for whom victory on Sunday would mean going to the top of The Race to Dubai, had to be content with a 71 like Dyson.
Last year's runner-up - he missed an 18 inch putt in the play-off - was into the top ten at six under with four to play, but bogeyed the sixth after driving into the trees, then drove out of bounds on the next and ran up a double bogey six on a hole that had already seen more eagles twos.
A closing birdie, however, lifted McIlroy back to four under, the same mark as playing partner Lee Westwood, who improved four shots on his opening 71 to move ominously into contention for the weekend.
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