McDowell in the mix in Madrid

Marathon man Graeme McDowell moved into contention for his first win in three years in the Spanish Open.

The Portrush native, 27, played 36 holes at the National Golf Centre in Madrid as weather again made life a misery for the organisers.

Eight hours of play were lost due to Thursday's downpours before another hour and 40 minutes was lost late yesterday afternoon due to lightning.

But that did not stop McDowell sparking to life with rounds of 71 and 69 to move to within four strokes of surprise leader Stuart Little on four under par.

Left-hander Little, who was first reserve on Thursday morning, grabbed the provisional halfway lead on eight under par after rounds of 67 and 69.

But that left him just one stroke clear of South Africa's Charl Schwartzel and English pair Nick Dougherty and Mark Foster.

Simon Dyson and Andrew Raitt were a shot further back on six under.

But McDowell put himself right in the mix with five birdies and just two dropped shots in a late afternoon 69.

Litte, 39, flew out on Tuesday after being told he was suddenly up from fourth to first reserve.

A place then fell open for him when Londoner Anthony Wall withdrew just before the start.

Little made the most of his chance over 36 holes and charged to nine under par with three to play before a bogey at the seventh, his 16th, saw him card a 69 for eight under par.

Without a victory since he made his European Tour debut 15 years ago, Little lost his card again last season.

He then made his 11th trip to the qualifying school, but only the top 35 there win places on the circuit and he finished a lowly 130th.

Little said: "This is only my fifth tournament of the year, so to play like this so far is absolutely fantastic - of course it is."

"I developed a few problems technically and trying to compete with a B-game is pretty much impossible. My game was not good enough and I couldn't find a solution quick enough."

Paul McGinley, David Higgins, Gary Murphy, Damien McGrane, Darren Clarke and amateur Rory McIlroy were amongst the 77 players who will not get to start their second rounds until this morning.

Only Murphy managed to play yesterday, completing the remaining five holes of his first round in one under par for a solid 71.

McGinley will resume on two under par, a shot clear of Murphy and Higgins with McGrane on level par.

But McIlroy knows that he will need to shoot a sub 70 score if he is to have any chance of making the predicted halfway cut of level par.

The Holywood ace, who celebrates his 18th birthday next Friday, left himself with a mountain to climb after an opening 77.