HOUSTON: Unheralded American Steve Wheatcroft carded another five-under-par 67 to take a one-shot lead after the second round of the Houston Open on Friday, while major winners Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson fought hard to just make the cut at Redstone Golf Club.
The 35-year-old Wheatcroft only earned a start for the event through Monday qualifying but now sits at 10-under, holding the 36 hole lead over fellow Americans Jason Kokrak (69) and D A Points (71) who are tied second at nine-under.
England’s Brian Davis (70) and former British Open winner Stewart Cink (66) are joint fourth at seven-under.
World number two McIlroy will get the chance to continue to hone his wayward game before the US Masters after he ground out a two-under-par round of 70 to make the cut on the number at one-under.
McIlroy, a week from being deposed by Tiger Woods from golf’s rankings summit, managed three birdies and just the lone bogey in a more accomplished effort than his opening round of 73.
Mickelson needed three back nine birdies to also make the cut on the number.
Siem ahead in Morocco
Germany’s Marcel Siem stayed on course for a last-gasp place at the Masters when he retained his lead at the Trophee Hassan in Agadir, Morocco, on Friday, a second round 68 following his opening 64.
The 32-year-old, on 12-under at the halfway stage, is three shots ahead of Finland’s Mikko Ilonen and England’s David Horsey, the 2011 champion.
Siem needs to win the tournament to stand any chance of climbing into the world top 50 and earning a debut Masters appearance in Augusta next month.
On Friday, he carded seven birdies and three bogeys at Golf du Palais Royal.
“I am trying my best (to get to the Masters).
“It is a tournament I have always wanted to play and if I can keep calm and play the way that I have been for the first two days here then I have a chance,” said the German.
“I hope the wind blows a little bit more because I enjoy the challenge of playing into the wind and it would also keep the guys behind me away from me because if there is no wind out there then people can go very low around this course.”
Ilonen had seven birdies, an eagle, a bogey and a double bogey seven in an eventful 66 while Horsey carded 67.
Prayad remains ahead
Thai veteran Prayad Marksaeng on Saturday shot a six-under-par 66 to take a five-shot lead over countryman Thongchai Jaidee going into the final round of the $750,000 Chiangmai Golf Classic.
Prayad, 47, stretched his overnight two-shot lead by going out in 31, including a chip-in for eagle on the seventh, before completing the back nine in one-under to sit on 18 under at the par 72 Alpine Golf Resort-Chiangmai.
Thongchai, a three-time Asian Tour number one, shot a 69 and is tied in second place with Australian rookie Matthew Stieger.
Stieger shot a fine 68 as he remained bogey-free for the week while Asia’s first Major winner Y E Yang of Korea carded a 67 for a share of fourth place.
Four-time Major champion Ernie Els of South Africa fired his lowest round of the season with a 66 to move up to tied 15th place, eight shots behind the leader.