The 1999 British Open champion has six birdies and an eagle over 36 holes. Jonathan Caldwell (66) of Northern Ireland, Maarten Lafeber (67) of the Netherlands and Daniel Vancsik (69) of Argentina trailed the leader.
Jose Maria Olazabal birdied the 18th for a 68, finishing with birdies on five of his first six holes. Hes tied with Soren Hansen (70) , Gregory Bourdy (68) and Shiv Kapur (70).
Colin Montgomerie also shot 68, rebounding from an opening 76, to avoid missing a fourth straight cut for the first time in his career.
The 40-year-old Lawrie is trying to break a seven-year winless streak, his last victory at the Wales Open in 2002. He recently started working with Padraig Harringtons veteran coach Bob Torrance, who has made changes to his swing.
Im hitting it straighter, thats for sure, Lawrie said. My bad shots are just a little bit of a block as opposed to a destructive hook. Its in play all the time now, which is nice.
Lawrie shot a bogey-free 67 in rainy conditions on Thursday.