By Brian Keogh
Teenager Rory McIlroy moved through the gears in the Madrid Open Valle Romano and set his sights on the title.
McIlroy, 18, racked up six birdies in a four under par 68 to lie just six shots off the pace on three under par.
And while he's playing in just his third event as a professional, the Holywood hotshot believes he can emulate Padraig Harrington and grab his first tour win in Spain
Tied for 13th, McIlroy took just 25 putts compared to 34 in a frustrating, first round 73.
He beamed: "I've definitely got a chance to win this and if I can shoot another 68 tomorrow it won't leave me too far away at all.
"I'm lurking right now so maybe I can sneak up on the leaders from behind!
"The greens were nowhere near as spikey as they were yesterday evening and the conditions were pretty perfect out there today. I am happy with where I am at the minute."
Two over for the tournament after opening with a bogey at the 10th, McIlroy took 26 tournament holes to make his first birdie and almost went on to reel off five in a row.
A superb six iron to the par three 17th sent him on his way and he followed that with a sand wedge to two feet at the downhill 18th.
He completed his birdie hat-trick with a nine-iron to 20 feet at the first and then rifled a seven-iron over the flag to three feet at the short second to make it four in a row.
It should have been five in a row at the par five fourth but after bunkering his three wood approach, he splashed out to six feet and watched his birdie putt horseshoe round the hole and stay up.
A bogey at the fourth, where he bunkered a simple sand wedge over the green and got snarled up in the fringe with a delicate splash shot, only proved to be a minor hiccup.
Birdies at the short par four sixth and par five ninth took him home in 33 and within striking distance of Spain's Alejandro Cañizares (66) and Argentinian Daniel Vancsik (70) who lead by a shot on nine under par from England's Gary Lockerbie.
Lying 106th in the Order of Merit with €226,000, McIlroy needs twice that amount to jump into the top 60 and qualify for the season ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama.
But with the winner taking home €150,000 he confessed that a victory could change his end of the season travel plans.
He said: "If I was to do well here and again next week in the Portugal Masters, I might add the Mallorca Classic to try and qualify for the Volvo Masters.
"After that I only want to play the Hong Kong Open and the Mastercard Masters in Australia and then take December off."
Meath's Damien McGrane is the next best of the Irish on over over par after a 74 with Peter Lawrie on two over after a 75.
But Ulsterman Graeme McDowell made the three over par cut by the skin of his teeth after a roller coaster 73.
The Portrush player was level par for the tournament with nine holes to play but bogeyed his 10th and 11th and double bogeyed his 12th to drop to four over.
Two birdies got him back to two over but he was left sweating after a bogey six at the ninth, his 18th.