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Donald closes in on Scottish Open lead

CASTLE STUART--United Kingdom World number one Luke Donald put himself back into winning contention after shooting a flawless second-round 68 on Friday to be just three shots back in the defense of his Scottish Open title.

Donald birdied his second and third holes and then, after 13 straight pars, birdied his closing two holes to move to 9-under par, trailing Italy's Francesco Molinari (70) and Sweden's Alex Noren (66) who head the event on 12-under.

Donald has burst back into winning form in his first event since missing the halfway cut with a shock 11-over in last month's U.S. Open.

“It was a nice way to finish with a couple of birdies and that puts me only three back,” said Donald.

“My putter just went a bit cold there for a while and couldn't quite make some birdies when I needed but overall, it was a pretty stress-free day.”

Donald will be seeking to win his second European Tour event in three tournaments and also become the first player to retain the Scottish Open.

“I came up here to Scotland to successfully defend and that is what I'm here for,” he added.

“I'm working hard and also getting my game ready for next week.”

Noren, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Thursday, is on target to secure one of the two remaining spots into next week's British Open.

The leading player within the top-five finishes — and not already exempt — in both the Scottish Open and the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic this week, will earn entry into golf's oldest Major.

However Noren's goal of contesting a fourth British Open is under threat by Argentina's Ricardo Gonzalez and Italian teenager Matteo Manassero who both shot 64s to be tied in third place at 11-under.

They are also hoping to get into the British Open.

India's SSP Chowrasia (67), who is in fourth place on 10-under par, is also seeking to qualify.

Sharing sixth place on nine under par with Donald is 2009 Scottish Open winner, Martin Kaymer of Germany.

Kaymer birdied five of his opening seven holes in an eventual round of 68.

The German, who was ranked number one in the world in April last year, also has turned around recent poor form, including missing the cut in the U.S. Open and finishing in the tail of the field in last week's French Open.

Phil Mickelson posted the equal lowest round of the day, an eight under par 64, to move to seven under par and also return to form after missing the cut in both the U.S. Open and last week's Greenbrier Classic.

The triple Major winning pair of Padraig Harrington (69) and Ernie Els (70) finished a respective 6-under par and 4-under par.

However, missing the cut was Scotland's Ryder Cup hopeful Paul Lawrie along with fellow Scots Colin Montgomerie and Sandy Lyle.

Also cut from the event was Korean American Kevin Na who received an invitation to contest his first-ever regular European Tour event.

And Paul Casey's wretched season continued with the English golfer posting a pair of 76s for an 8-over par tally.

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