Gareth Shaw continued his superb form in Paris. Picture: David Lloyd/www.golffile.ieGraeme McDowell enjoyed a timely return to form in the Open de France but the outstanding Irish story continues to be the sensational efforts of Galgorm Castle touring professional Gareth Shaw.

As McDowell ended a run of three successive missed cuts by carding a surgical 69 to go into the weekend just two shots behind pacesetter Fabrizio Zanotti on four under, Shaw also shot 69 to share 17th place on one under.

Having finished a brilliant fifth in the Irish Open on his full European Tour debut last week, Shaw continues to take advantage of every opportunity that comes his way.

Last week’s performance at Carton House earned the Challenge Tour regular his place in Paris as a top-10 finisher and while it’s tempting fate to look too far ahead, a top-five finish at Le Golf National could secure the Lurgan native his European Tour card for next season.

That is asking a huge amount from the 27year old who only earned his Challenge Tour return this season by winning the third tier Alps Tour Order of Merit last year.

Add to that the fact that he’s playing on fumes - this is his seventh successive start and his ninth tournament in 11 weeks - and it would be more reasonable to simply expect him to go out and enjoy himself this weekend.

McDowell certainly has no question of letting the air out of the balloon having been forced to work harder than ever to regain the hunger that has helped him win twice already this year.

The world No 9 yesterday described his season as “all duck or no dinner” - his form since the Masters reads missed cut, win, missed cut, win, missed cut, missed cut, missed cut.

Another win would arugably make him one of the favourites to win The Open at Muirfield in a fortnight, yet McDowell is simply happy to be back on the rails after a frustrating run.

“Yes, solid,” he told Nick Dye of European Tour Radio. “I am playing this golf course the way it is meant to be played, which is fairways and greens. Sounds a bit silly because most golf courses are fairways and greens but this one is particularly demanding.

“If you don’t hit it in the fairway here, this golf course can really, really punish you.

“I’ve been working very hard on my game the last couple of weeks and it’s nice to see the ball do what it’s suppsed to do for a change.

“It’s been a rough couple of months and it’s nice to make a cut for a change. It’s a step in the right direction. But not jiust that, I have also positioned myself nicely on the leaderboard for the weekend.”

Asked if his form could be described as binary golf in terms of hits and misses over the past three months - 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0 -  he said: “It’s been all duck or no dinner. That’s probably the other way to describe it. But I’ve worked hard on my game the last couple of weeks and it was very important that I got myself on the leaderboard this weekend.

“I wasn’t really sure if I was in a position to add an event next weekend if things hadn’t gone my way this week. But thankfully the juices will be flowing tomorrow afternoon and I will be out in the last three or four groups hopefully.

“This is a great golf course, not unlike the one we will face in a couple of weeks’ time. It’s firm and fast with some very heavy fescue around and you must play well. There’s a benefit to constructive criticism, taking the positives from a weekend off, working harder, getting the motivation and getting hungry to get back in contention.

“I feel like I have used the negativity well the last couple of weeks. The US Open kind of drove me on, last week missing by one drove me on, and it’s nice to be back hitting some good shots this week.

“This golf course has always been one I feel like I can get it round and it’s nice to position myself well. I’ve just got to keep doing what I am doing, keeping it out of trouble and hopefully I can have a chance come Sunday.”

On a glorious summer’s day in Versailles, Fabrizio Zanotti coasted to the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage, establishing a one stroke lead over the Danish duo of Thomas Björn and Soren Kjeldsen and South Africa’s Richard Sterne.

Fabrizio Zanotti. ©Getty ImagesThe Paraguayan dropped just one shot at the formidable Golf National to post a second consecutive round of three under par 68 to move to six under for the week, with Björn, Kjeldsen and Sterne tied on five under.

McDowell is lurking on four under, alongside Stephen Gallacher, Simon Dyson and the 2007 Alstom Open de France winner Graeme Storm.

But when asked to predict the winning score, he erred on the conservative side.

“I am thinking eight to ten under, if the wind gets up in any shape or form. It’s been perfect scoring conditions the last couple of days, so it’s tough to see much beyond eight, nine, 10 under par. I’d take nine right now and sit in the clubhouse.”

Only nine strokes separate Zanotti and the rest of the weekend field at Le Golf National. With every player to survive the halfway cut, including Luke Donald (+2), Ian Poulter (+2) and Matt Kuchar (+3), in with a chance.

Apart from McDowell and Shaw, the survivors also include Damien McGrane (70-72 for even par and joint 26th), Michael Hoey (69-74 for plus one and joint 37th), Gareth Maybin (71-73 for plus 2 and joint 44th) and Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar (70-75, plus three and tied 53rd.)

Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley missed the cut by three shots after a second successive 74 while Peter Lawrie (74-75) was never quite sharp enough on the greens and a run of four shots in three holes in the middle of his back nine saw him miss out by four strokes on seven over.

Simon Thornton, who won his maiden tour title just a few weeks ago, had a pair of 75s to miss the cut on eight over.

Complete Round Two Scores:

136 F Zanotti (Par) 68 68;

137 T Björn (Den) 68 69; S Kjeldsen (Den) 69 68; R Sterne  (RSA) 68 69;

138 G Storm  (Eng) 70 68; S Dyson  (Eng) 70 68; G McDowell  (Nir) 69 69; S Gallacher (Sco) 68 70;

139 R Green (Aus) 69 70; E De La Riva  (Esp) 72 67; S Jamieson  (Sco) 69 70;

140 J Donaldson (Wal) 70 70; F Aguilar (Chi) 68 72; D Howell (Eng) 69 71; A Cañizares  (Esp) 71 69; R Ramsay  (Sco) 69 71;

141 M Nixon (Eng) 68 73; G Shaw (Nir) 72 69; C Doak (Sco) 71 70; K Broberg (Swe) 72 69; L Slattery (Eng) 71 70; S Henry  (Sco) 73 68; M Warren (Sco) 69 72; B Wiesberger  (Aut) 70 71; J Morrison  (Eng) 69 72;

142 J Luiten (Ned) 71 71; G Bourdy (Fra) 69 73; T Pieters  (Bel) 70 72; H Otto (RSA) 71 71; R Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 70 72; M Manassero (Ita) 73 69; R Derksen (Ned) 72 70; M Madsen  (Den) 71 71; D McGrane (Irl) 70 72; S Hansen (Den) 75 67; R Wattel  (Fra) 67 75;

143 S Chowrasia (Ind) 76 67; S Benson (Eng) 71 72; V Dubuisson  (Fra) 68 75; J Campillo (Esp) 74 69; M Hoey (Nir) 69 74; R Fisher (Eng) 70 73; C Lloyd (Eng) 70 73;

144 L Donald  (Eng) 71 73; A Hansen (Den) 66 78; E Goya (Arg) 68 76; D Drysdale (Sco) 70 74; J Parry (Eng) 74 70; I Poulter (Eng) 73 71; M Kaymer (Ger) 68 76; S Khan (Eng) 71 73; G Maybin (Nir) 71 73;

145 M Kuchar  (USA) 70 75; M Jiménez (Esp) 69 76; A Snobeck  (Fra) 76 69; G Fdez-Castaño  (Esp) 74 71; I Garrido (Esp) 75 70; F Molinari (Ita) 71 74; L Gagli  (Ita) 73 72; M Lundberg (Swe) 71 74; A Levy (Fra) 69 76; M Lafeber (Ned) 76 69; A Dunbar (Nir) 70 75; T Aiken (RSA) 71 74; R Finch  (Eng) 75 70;


146 R Rock (Eng) 71 75; T Fleetwood  (Eng) 73 73; A Dodt (Aus) 71 75; R Jacquelin (Fra) 70 76; A Tadini (Ita) 71 75; R Gonzalez (Arg) 73 73; D Lynn (Eng) 73 73; E Molinari  (Ita) 72 74; J Singh (Ind) 76 70; N Fasth (Swe) 75 71; M Baldwin (Eng) 71 75; R Bland (Eng) 74 72; M Foster (Eng) 71 75; T Jaidee (Tha) 71 75; M Kieffer (Ger) 74 72; C Wood  (Eng) 76 70;

147 M Southgate  (Eng) 71 76; G Mulroy (RSA) 70 77; E Pepperell (Eng) 75 72; P Waring  (Eng) 77 70; O Fisher  (Eng) 73 74; M Fraser (Aus) 77 70; T Lewis (Eng) 72 75; H Mu (Chn) 72 75; A Noren  (Swe) 70 77; F Fritsch  (Ger) 74 73; J Hansen  (Den) 80 67;

148 M Carlsson  (Swe) 74 74; P Uihlein  (USA) 75 73; S Webster (Eng) 74 74; K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 76 72; A Hartø  (Den) 76 72; M Campbell (Nzl) 70 78; G Lockerbie  (Eng) 72 76; T Olesen (Den) 78 70; P McGinley (Irl) 74 74; F Calmels  (Fra) 73 75; D Fichardt (RSA) 78 70; M Siem  (Ger) 78 70; A Quiros  (Esp) 74 74;

149 G Havret  (Fra) 73 76; D Horsey (Eng) 77 72; B Stone (RSA) 72 77; T Levet (Fra) 76 73; P Lawrie (Irl) 74 75; C Lee (Sco) 75 74; S Wakefield (Eng) 72 77;

150 J Van Zyl (RSA) 70 80; G Stal  (Fra) 79 71; L Jensen (Den) 80 70; P Whiteford (Sco) 78 72; R Santos  (Por) 75 75; A Sullivan (Eng) 80 70; E Grillo (Arg) 72 78; Z Scotland  (Eng) 75 75; J Remesy (Fra) 74 76; C Paisley  (Eng) 74 76; S Thornton (Irl) 75 75;

151 J Edfors (Swe) 73 78; M Ford (Eng) 74 77; M Tullo (Chi) 70 81; J Quesne  (Fra) 75 76; P Price (Wal) 73 78;

152 C Cévaër (Fra) 78 74; M Ilonen  (Fin) 76 76; P Widegren  (Swe) 71 81; C Brazillier  (Fra) 72 80; R Coles (Eng) 75 77;

153 N Tacher (Fra) 77 76; J Verselin (Fra) 81 72;

154 J Lucquin (Fra) 76 78;

155 F Andersson Hed (Swe) 79 76; K Horne (RSA) 79 76; M Wiegele  (Aut) 74 81; G Boyd  (Eng) 81 74; J Walters (RSA) 72 83; J Olazábal (Esp) 77 78;

156 G Cambis  (Fra) 75 81; J Lara (Esp) 71 85; A Kaleka  (Fra) 78 78;

157 G Hazelby (Eng) 84 73; J Kruger (RSA) 75 82; M Delpodio  (Ita) 76 81; B Rumford (Aus) 78 79; P Larrazábal (Esp) 80 77; B Åkesson (Swe) 74 83;

159 J Gonnet  (Fra) 78 81; J Sjöholm (Swe) 79 80; J Brun (am) (Fra) 77 82;

167 A Schwartz (Fra) 82 85;

 ** E Kofstad (Nor) 73 WD;