Rory McIlroy added five under par 67 to his opening 70 in the first stage of the Qualifying School (Section A) at the Oxfordshire to remain on course for his European Tour card .

The Holywood amateur, 18, is four shots off the lead and tied for ninth place on seven under par at halfway with the top 29 and ties after four rounds progressing to November’s second stage in Spain.

While he carded five birdies, McIlroy claimed he could have shot a 59 had it not been for an unruly putter.

He said: “It shoud have been a lot lower. I hit the ball beautifully and kept hitting great shots into the greens but I missed a lot of chances from inside 12 feet.”

Starting on the back nine, he bunkered his three-iron approach to the par five 11th but saved par with ease.

But on the par-five seventh - his 16th - he hit a seven iron to 18 feet and three putted for par, missing from a foot without marking the ball

He said: “It really could have been a 59 I had so many chances but the good thing was I keep my cool evern when the putts didn’t go in.

“And after two rounds I am on course to make it to stage two. That’s all I’m looking for this week because as an amateur I am not playing for money.”

It was a good day too for Belfast’s Damian Mooney, who recovered from a first round 73 with a sensational seven under par 65 to move up to tied 16th.

But Clontarf assistant Eamonn Brady crashed to a 77 to lie 92nd on nine over par and out of contention for his tour card this year.

The top 26 and ties qualify at Fleesensee in Germany with Stackstown’s Michael McDermott tied for fourth on seven under par after a 70.

Fellow Stackstown man Mark Campbell is three shots further back in eighth after a 72.

The top 27 and ties progress at Chart Hills with Glen Robinson the leading Irishman in a share of fifth place on five under after a 69.

Derry’s Michael McGeady hit a one under par 71 to fall back into a share of seventh place on five under with Chris Devlin (70) tied 13th, Mark Murphy (68) tied 17th and Gary Cullen (72) in a share of 29th.

Mallow’s Michael Collins undid all the hard work of an opening 70 with a 75 that dropped him outside the qualifying mark to a share of 35th place on one over - nien strokes behind leader Thomas Haylock of England.

Irish PGA runner up Brendan McGovern slumped to a 74 that left him tied 44th on two over alongside Mark Staunton (72) with Derry’s David Jones (73) in 59th on four over.

St Margaret’s John Kelly also looks unlikely to make it to the finals again this year after a 76 dropped him to tied 65th on five over while Ted Higgins is tied for 95th on 13 over after an 81.