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McDowell one back of Noren at Celtic Manor

NEWPORT, Wales – Four days after qualifying for his first U.S. Open, Alexander Noren overcame windy conditions to shoot a 4-under 67 Friday and lead defending champion Graeme McDowell by one stroke after the second round of the Wales Open.

The 127th-ranked Noren made birdies on four of his last five holes to total 8-under 134 at Celtic Manor. Looking to add to his only tour victory at the 2009 European Masters since turning professional six years ago, the Swede had the worst of the weather before making his late charge.

“You can play pretty safe but you’ll have long putts and difficult putts, and if you want to make birdies, it’s pretty tough,” said Noren, who was tied for 19th at the 2008 British Open, his only major appearance. “I think probably somebody will get to 9, 10 under.”

McDowell made a run of four birdies in five holes from No. 8 in shooting a 68. The U.S. Open champion smashed a monster 385-yard drive at the last to set up another birdie. He’s bidding to become the first player to retain the Wales Open title in the tournament’s 12-year history.

“I think this golf course is a great test. You have to drive it well, there’s plenty of rough and penalties around. It’s a long golf course,” he said. “There’s a little bit of everything about this golf course, and that’s what I like. It’s a proper golf test.”

Victor Dubuisson (69) and Jamie Donaldson (68) are next at 136. They are a stroke ahead of first-round leader Keith Horne (73), Peter Hanson (72) and Barry Lane (69), who turns 51 later this month and is seeking to become the oldest winner on the European Tour.

Des Smyth currently holds that honor, the Irishman was 48 when he won the Madeira Island Open in 2001.

Lane, a member of the 1993 Ryder Cup team at The Belfry, looked at long odds to make the cut in the opening round before coming home in 30 shots. He followed that up on Friday with two birdies before and after the turn as he eyes a first victory on the circuit since the 2004 British Masters.

“For an old man like me, a 7,400-yard long course is pretty difficult, but I played wonderful and sure I think I can still win,” said Lane, whose brother is caddying for him for the first time in his 673rd tournament on tour.

Paul Broadhurst, who needed an invitation to the event after losing his tour card last year, shot 72. The Englishman is in a group at 138 after holing three straight birdies from No. 11.

Last year’s winning Ryder Cup captain, Colin Montgomerie, shot a 79 to collapse to last place at 15 over and miss the cut at the course where he led his team to victory. It was his worst halfway score in Europe since shooting 17 over at the 1991 Benson and Hedges International.

After a 78 on Thursday, he dropped six shots in the first eight holes of his second round to finish the back nine in 41 strokes.

“I just played awful and I’m very disappointed not to be playing at the weekend, never mind contending,” Montgomerie said. “It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is, and I have to accept that sometimes.”

Playing partner Miguel Angel Jimenez lost his temper when his lay-up shot at No. 18 went into the frontside lake. The Spaniard chucked his yardage book to the ground and gave it a kick. He finished at 72.