Rory McIlroy shares the lead at the halfway stage of the Omega European Masters, the first qualifying event for next year's European Ryder Cup team.
A 2-under-par 69 was, somewhat surprisingly, good enough to put the U.S. Open champion out in front on 8 under alongside England's Simon Dyson and Gary Boyd and Welshman Jamie Donaldson.
2011 OMEGA EUROPEAN MASTERS
The Omega European Masters is the first event in which players can earn points toward making the 2012 European Ryder Cup team.
"I gave myself a lot of chances and wasn't able to convert them, which was pretty frustrating,” said McIlroy, who struggled on the bumpy greens at Crans-sur-Sierre. "The greens were not as good as we got them yesterday morning and I got a bit tentative."
The 22-year-old Northern Irishman, back in action three weeks after injuring his arm against a tree root at the PGA Championship, made an eagle 2 on the driveable seventh, but gave the strokes back with a 7 at the long ninth, driving into trouble and then three-putting from only four feet.
His only deviation from par on the back nine was a birdie at the 516-yard 15th, and even there he missed a 14-foot eagle opportunity.
Overnight leader Nick Dougherty, only too aware that he had missed his previous 21 cuts going back to last November, added a 72 to his opening 63. That dropped the 29-year-old Liverpudlian into a tie for fifth as he tries to re-ignite his career and save himself from a return to Q-School at the end of the season.
"I had two things in my head -- the tournament and getting the monkey of not making a cut off my back,” Dougherty admitted. "I didn't play as well and I had a few iffy breaks, but I suppose you get what you deserve. Hopefully I can play with a bit more flair and flamboyance tomorrow. It was a little cagey."
Dyson, trying to follow up his Irish Open success a month ago, shot 68.
"I played solid again and if I keep on like that hopefully I will be right in the mix again," he said. "The game's as good as it's ever been."
Boyd (69) and Donaldson (66) are chasing their first European Tour titles, but while 24-year-old Boyd is in just his second full season on the circuit, 35-year-old Donaldson has played approaching 250 events going back a decade.
Former world No. 1s Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood are only one and two shots back, respectively. Kaymer, round in 70 after double-bogeying the 16th when leading, was pleading for the sort of luck that playing partner Louis Oosthuizen had on the long 14th.
Last year's Open champion was heading out of bounds with his second shot when it struck a photographer. He birdied the hole and made the cut with nothing to spare at 2 under.
Westwood had a 69, while current Open champion Darren Clarke -- out of bounds for his double bogey on the fourth -- fell back to 4 under with a 71.