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Friday, 03 June 2011
Alex Noren  (Getty Images)
Alex Noren (Getty Images)

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Sweden's Alex Noren took over the lead in the Saab Wales Open with a second successive 67 – but he has defending champion Graeme McDowell only one behind.

The former Omega European Masters champion, who is looking forward to his US Open Championship debut - indeed his first Major in America - in two weeks after making it through with a stroke to spare at Walton Heath.

The 28 year old from Stockholm said: "I've always dreamed of playing a US Open and I'm so happy - so happy. It's such an energy boost."

He birdied four of the last five holes to take over at the top from South African Keith Horne, who after starting with a 64 failed to conjure up a single birdie in his 73.

Noren, who had wrongly predicted the second round leading total being nine or ten under after finishing his round in the morning session, added: “It plays so long. It's just like you used to hit a lot of wedges, but today seven iron, six iron, five iron, and it just keeps on going. You can play pretty safe, but you'll have long putts, and difficult putts, and if you want to make birdies, it's pretty tough.”

McDowell also had four birdies in five holes, in his case from the eighth, and just as important was his recovery from under the lip of a bunker to two feet at the short tenth.

"One of the boys said Seve would have been proud of that one," he said. "I'm on a course I enjoy and in a position I enjoy.

"This is absolutely perfect for the US Open (he defends there as well in a fortnight). I said I just wanted to get in the mix and get the juices flowing and it's kind of mission accomplished."

Welshman Jamie Donaldson is in joint third with France's Victor Dubuisson, but Phillip Price - another of the home contingent - had a real setback when he was going well.

On-course television commentator Howard Clark thought Price, one under at the time, had driven from in front of the tee at the 15th.

When it was checked on video a two shot penalty was imposed and he had to go back to the tee to play it again. He birdied it second time, but it meant a bogey on the card and he finished level par.

In the same group Ryder Cup star Ross Fisher endured an outward 44 and with a 79 for seven over he is certain to remain outside the world's top 50 and looks like missing the US Open.

“I played really good,” said Donaldson, who is still seeking his maiden European Tour title. “I probably played better today than I did yesterday but yesterday I played really well.

“It was just tough today because of the wind. Played the first eight or nine holes into, so it was a matter of keeping your score, making pars really. It was just a matter of grinding until the wind turned, and you had a lot more holes on the back nine downwind.”

After a hole-in-one from Elliott Saltman in the first round there was another ace from fellow Scot George Murray - also at the 211 yard 17th. It is at the 13th, though, that a car is the prize.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1NOREN, AlexanderSWE18-9
T2BOURDY, GrégoryFRA18-7
T2HANSEN, AndersDEN18-7
T4GONZALEZ, RicardoARG18-6
T4LARRAZÁBAL, PabloESP18-6
T4EDFORS, JohanSWE18-6
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