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Friday, 19 March 2010
Back-to-back eagles helped move Ireland's Paul McGinley into pole position to land the first prize of 881,251 euro (£551,040) jackpot at the halfway stage of the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.

The 34 year old sank a 146 yard eight iron on the 464 yard fourth hole at St Andrews and followed it with a drive and five iron to 25 feet on the 568 yard next hole from where he promptly sank the putt

The Dubliner, forced to put his Ryder Cup debut on hold for a year, finished with an eight under par 64 and so reached halfway in the richest tournament ever staged in Britain, on the 13 under par mark of 141.

McGinley is partnering Hollywood actor Kyle MacLachlan in the pro-am team event being run concurrently on three courses, but said: "I know what is at stake here for the Order of Merit and World Ranking points.

"I know how much we are playing for and what you can achieve by playing well. I don't regard it as a pro-am - it's a tournament for me."

With a round at Carnoustie still to come before the field is cut to the top 60, McGinley stands two ahead of Londoner Brian Davis and Zimbabwe's Tony Johnstone.

The Irishman's day actually began at Kingsbarns because he was among the players unable to finish on Thursday due to fog.

He immediately birdied the long 16th and parred the final two holes for a 67, then took a leaf out of Tiger Woods' book from The Open last year by avoiding every single bunker on the Old Course.

"I also hit 18 greens in regulation, although I know that's not saying much at St Andrews because of the size of the greens. But the two eagles were the bonus - they turned a 68 into a 64."

Of the nearest challengers, Davis was the more disappointed, having shared the lead in the middle of his back nine before dropping a shot at each of his last two holes at St Andrews for a 68.

There were no such problems for Johnstone however, the winner of the Qatar Masters in March, finishing with four pars at the Old Course after having made the telling thrust of his challenge around the famous loop on the Fife links, birdieing five out of six holes from the seventh on his way to a 66.

In a tie for fourth were Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, runner up in last week’s Cisco World Match Play Championship at Wentworth Club. Like the leading three contenders, the duo played their second rounds at St Andrews having opened at Kingsbarns and Donaldson fared the better, carding a 66 to Harrington’s 67.

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