English newcomer John Parry shot a 5-under 67 Friday to take a one-shot halfway lead at the European Tour’s Austrian Open.
The 23-year-old graduate of the European Challenge Tour in 2009 produced a bogey-free second round at the Diamond Country Club that took him to 8 under after a first-day 69.
Parry has not held the lead on the European Tour since February, when he shot two straight 67s at the Avantha Masters in India, only to finish in 26th place. He is 117th on the money list and a top-10 finish on Sunday would earn him his 2011 European Tour card.
“I hit 17 greens in regulation,” Parry said. “And hit the ball really solid. And if I can keep it going like that I should be there or thereabouts on Sunday night.”
The chasing pack includes European Ryder Cup player Graeme McDowell, who shot a 68 for a share of second place alongside Sweden’s Pelle Edberg and Jose Manuel Lara of Spain. McDowell, who returned to competition after five weeks off following his victory at the U.S. Open, opened the tournament with a 69.
“The rust has gone. It took me approximately eight holes on the first day to shake it off,” McDowell said. “But today I was more solid and it’s nice to be in contention again going into the weekend. And it really feels nice to be in contention going into the weekend. I have come back refreshed and I fell a lot better this week.”
Miguel Angel Jimenez, the other Ryder Cup player in the field, moved to 3 under after a 68.
Goerge Coetzee, who held a one-shot lead after his first-round 65, had threatened to break away from the field. A run of four straight birdies from seventh took him three clear of his nearest rivals before the 24-year-old South African encountered a rough patch.
A double bogey at the 12 reined him back before a quadruple 8 at the 16th, where he found water twice, saw him plummet down the leaderboard. After a visit to another lake in front of the 17th green, Coetzee shot a 4-over 76, leaving him at 3 under and five shots behind the leader.
"It's a bit early to be looking at leaderboards -- we're only in the second round," said Parry, a Walker Cup teammate of Rory McIlroy. "It is a lead, though, so I'm happy going into the weekend in front. I'd always prefer to be in the lead than not."
A good finish also should be enough to secure Lara's card for next season.
"I still feel young in myself, but there are many young Spanish guys coming up now and already have their cards," said the 33-year-old, who could not match his opening 66 as he signed for a 71. "I need to fight this year and that's what I'm doing."
McDowell, who is playing in his last event before next month's Ryder Cup, birdied four of his first five holes after starting on the back nine. Having dropped a shot at the 17th, he claimed it back at the next and followed up with nine successive pars.
"It's very much the old cliche of a game of two halves, this golf course," McDowell said. "This front nine's quite tricky and you've got to drive the ball unbelievably well to have any chance of making birdies.
"On the back nine, it's a lot more 3-woods and hybrids off the tees, which offers you a few more opportunities, and I think the greens are a little flatter as well,” he explained. "I think I'm 2 over par for the front nine and 9 under par for the back nine overall, so I certainly know where I need to make up some shots on the weekend."