World No. 6 Rory McIlroy surged into a share of the lead as the cream rose to the top in the European Masters second round in the Alps on Friday.
US Open champion McIlroy carded an eventful two-under-par 69 to join fellow Britons Simon Dyson (68), Gary Boyd (69) and Jamie Donaldson (66) on eight-under 134.
Last year’s US PGA champion, Martin Kaymer (70), was in a group of five players one stroke off the pace.
Also on 135 was overnight leader Nick Dougherty, the Briton having returned a 72 to make his first cut of a woeful year. World No. 2 Lee Westwood was a further shot adrift on 136 after a 69.
Most of the field suffered on ragged Crans-sur-Sierre greens and McIlroy was no exception, though it was the fifth and ninth holes that influenced his round most.
On the fifth the Northern Irishman slammed a stunning drive to just three feet and sank his putt for an eagle two.
Then he undid his good work by three-putting from six feet on the ninth for a double-bogey seven.
“I don’t want to blame the greens for any of my putts, but it was difficult and I felt as though I could have distanced myself from the field with a bit of luck with my putting,” McIlroy told reporters.
The fifth-ranked Kaymer, who like McIlroy could leap to third in the world if results go his way today, remarkably missed a 12-inch putt on the 16th.
“It would be nice to play with Rory in the last round with one of us looking to win to go back up the rankings,” the German said.
Englishman Dougherty, who shot a glorious 63 on Thursday, was a relieved man on Friday.
“I had to get the monkey off my back by making the cut but it’s hard not to let negative thoughts creep in,” said the triple tour winner, who has slumped to 794th in the world rankings.
“I’m now starting with a clean slate,” Dougherty said.