Paul Dunne well in the hunt in Qatar as McDowell slips back

Greystones golfer just one shot off the record nine-way tied for the lead after two rounds

Paul Dunne of Ireland exchanges clubs with his caddie on the second hole during the second round of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Paul Dunne of Ireland exchanges clubs with his caddie on the second hole during the second round of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

 

Paul Dunne fired a round of 70 to remain within one shot of the lead after two rounds at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in Doha.

A record nine players share the lead heading into the third round with the entire field separated by just six shots.

Overnight leader Bradley Dredge could only add a 72 to his opening 64 and was joined on eight under par by Andy Sullivan, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Nacho Elvira, Jorge Campillo, Thomas Aiken, Jaco van Zyl, Wang Jeunghun and Mikko Korhonen.

The previous record for the most players tied for the halfway lead on the European Tour was eight in the Scandinavian Masters in 1997.

Dunne started his round solid as you like with nine consecutive pars taking him to the turn.

A birdie at the par five 10th was followed by another at the 11th and it looked like he was beginning to climb his way to the summit of the leaderboard.

However, consecutive bogeys followed which set him back to level par before a late rally with birdies at the 16th and 18th ensured he is well in the mix heading into Saturday.

It’s been a good start to the season for Dunne but he’ll be hoping that his good play does not go the same way as it did at last week’s Abu Dhabi Championship where he slipped well down the leaderboard on the final day after being in contention.

Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell – who had led early yesterday with a round of 66 – slipped well off the pace as his good play deserted him.

Birdies at his opening two holes moved the 2010 US Open champion into a tie for the lead but an inexplicable turn in form resulted in six bogeys and just one birdie in his final 16 holes to leave him signing for a 75 and a total of three under par.

McDowell has slipped to 91st in the world and was hoping to kickstart his season this week in Qatar but his 75 meant he only managed to make the cut by one shot.

Englishman Sullivan started his round from the 10th with 10 straight pars before four birdies in the last eight holes gave the Ryder Cup star a second consecutive flawless 68.

“It was a frustrating start to the day,” Sullivan told Sky Sports. “I thought my first nine was the one you could really get going on and platform into the back nine, but it didn’t really happen.

“I just did not convert the putts but my caddie told me just to be patient on this nine and finally the putts started to drop. All in all I’m reasonably happy, just feel going into the weekend need to improve on the par-five scoring.”

Fellow Englishman Jordan Smith was among seven players just a shot off the lead after continuing an impressive start to his debut season with five birdies and an eagle in his 66, the joint-lowest score of the day.

“I’m over the moon,” the 24-year-old said. “It was difficult with the wind really picking up in the afternoon and I hit some awesome iron shots out there. Really happy with the way I played.”

“I came in with a lot of confidence after a good couple of weeks getting the hang of things. I like to say I’m pretty good in the wind, playing a lot of links course as an amateur gets you used to that.”

Smith finished third in the South African Open earlier this month after playing in the last group in the final round with Rory McIlroy and eventual winner Graeme Storm.

The former Walker Cup player added: “I got some kind words from Rory and Graeme afterwards, which was nice, and I just sort of realised myself I can go toe-to-toe with them and have the sort of game to challenge.”

Four-time major winner Ernie Els was two shots off the lead after a second round of 70.

“It feels good,” Els said. “I felt really comfortable out there tee to green. I felt the greens were a little slower today and I missed a lot of makeable birdie putts, especially on the back nine, but I’m not complaining. I’m playing nicely and looking forward to the weekend.”

The 47-year-old added: “I still love it. To be this far away from the family you’ve got to love it. I still love playing here and competing against these guys and I feel like I can do some good stuff this year if the body can stay healthy.”

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