Brett Rumford leads the Qatar MastersPeter Lawrie and Graeme McDowell took advantage of easier second round conditions to move within five strokes of leader Brett Rumford at the halfway stage of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters.

Rumford fired a best of the day 66 to move one stroke ahead of Welshman Bradley Dredge and two ahead of Lee Westwood and Oliver Wilson on nine under par.

But it was also a good day for the Irish and while Damien McGrane missed the two over par cut by a shot after a 72, Lawrie (68) and McDowell (67) are nicely placed on four under with Shane Lowry just six strokes off the pace after a 70.

“There was no wind, so it was a much easier golf course,” said Lawrie, who birdied four of his first 10 holes and parred home to share ninth place at halfway. 

“I played nicely and could have picked up a few more coming in but missed a couple of eight footers on 16 and 18. I am happy enough with four under but it is a nice position to be in going into the weekend. 

“I am playing okay and hopefully we can improve over the weekend. You can see a low score out there if you drive it well. The greens are good and if you can get the line and pace right, you are going to hole a few putts. I can see someone shooting seven or eight under par round there. 

“Up to know this golf course has been set for the long hitters with no real rough but over the last year or so, they have let the rough grow up a little bit. Hopefully that will suit me better than golf courses where you have to boom it out there.”  

Having missed the cut in Abu Dhabi last week, world No 42 McDowell was pleased to rack up five birdies in a faultless 67 and hopes to finish the Gulf Swing in style.

“It was nice to come out an enjoy warm and sunny conditions and the golf course was more accessible,” McDowell said. “The greens were really pure and the whole course is well set up. If you miss a fairway you get penalised. Hit it in position and you have a chance to make some birdies. 

“It could have been better than 67 because I left a few putts out there but I am in position going into the weekend. It is important to get some golf under your belt at this stage of the season. 

“I was disappointed to miss the cut by one in Abu Dhabi but this course has been good to me in the past and hopefully I can go low tomorrow and get myself back in the tournament.”

McDowell replaced Tiger Woods in December’s Chevron World Challenge and took advantage of his unexpected start to move back into the world’s top 50 thanks to a brilliant share of second place at Sherwood Country Club.

Yet while that has taken the pressure off him in the early part of the season, he is determined to take advantage of the next few weeks to build some confidence before the countdown to the Masters begins next month.

McDowell said: “It is nice to come out here and not chasing a place in the top 50 in the world. You can take the pressure off yourself a little bit but the expectations are always there. 

“They are a dangerous thing sometimes but have got to expect and you have got to believe in yourself. I think we are all looking for a little bit of confidence at this time of the year. The game is there but you have still got to get the ball in the hole, shoot those scores in the mid 60s and get your confidence going a little. 

“There are loads of world ranking points to play for here in the gulf and I am looking for a good weekend here and a big week in Dubai next week. I like that golf course. It sets up well for me and my focus does not go beyond Dubai next week. The game is in decent shape. I didn’t take much of a winter break and I feel like I am not far away right now.”

Lowry shot his six successive sub-par round of the year when he posted a two under par 70 to share 14th place on three under par.

Gareth Maybin’s second round 74 relegated him to the middle of the pack on one-over par with Michael Hoey’s 72 leaving him just inside the cut mark on two-over.

McGrane missed out for the second week in succession but he was in good company as world No 10 Ian Poulter took a double bogey seven at his final hole, the ninth, to miss by one after a 72.