BMW PGA Championship: Francesco Molinari grabs one-shot lead
Francesco Molinari shot a four-under 68 to move into a one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the BMW PGA Championship.
Last Updated: 25/05/13 3:39pm
Two-time defending champion Luke Donald went into the second round insisting a hat-trick of titles was not out of the question despite struggling to an opening 78 to lie 12 shots off the lead, but the world No 6 could only manage a 72 on another cold and wet day to finish on six over par.
Other notable heroes of the 'Miracle at Medinah' also made an early exit from the European Tour's flagship £4million event, with Rory McIlroy (75), Graeme McDowell (75) and Ian Poulter (76) all joining Donald in missing the weekend.
Molinari, whose halved match with Tiger Woods at Medinah sealed Europe's remarkable victory in Chicago, began his second round with a bogey and also dropped shots at the 10th and 16th, but carded seven birdies on a course where he finished seventh last year.
The 30-year-old from Turin said: "I'm really happy with yesterday and today. The conditions were quite tough but I hit the ball well and the putter is working well so I am really happy at the moment.
"Six under is a good score given the conditions - I live over here now so I am used to it - and I'm in a great position going into the weekend, but it's a really tough course so anyone six or seven behind is still in it."
Molinari is a shot clear of Englishman Mark Foster, Scotland's Marc Warren, South African George Coetzee and Spaniard Alejandro Canizares.
English rookie Eddie Pepperell birdied his last four holes to card a 69 to lie just two off the lead on four under, with Lee Westwood and Ernie Els - playing alongside Molinari - another shot back after rounds of 71 and 69 respectively.
Westwood's chipping and putting has long been his Achilles heel, but the 40-year-old said: "My short game's been red hot. I played some nice pitches and walking off the back of the 12th green, where I pitched to about four feet, Ernie said 'Bit of a short-game wizard now.'
"I also got up and down on 18 after hitting it in the hazard and those sorts of things can make a big difference to your week and going into the weekend with momentum. If my long game starts to come together, I could be dangerous."
McIlroy had just one par, three birdies and five bogeys in a front nine of 37, but somehow scrambled seven pars in succession on the back nine despite a string of wayward drives before a double-bogey seven on the 17th ended his chances.
Poulter managed one birdie in a second successive 76 and has now missed the cut in his last three strokeplay events, as well as losing both group matches in the Volvo World Match Play Championship last week.
"The fire's not there right now," Poulter admitted. "I've got to re-engage or throw some wood in the oven and see what happens I guess, see if we can get it to ignite again."
First round leader James Kingston also endured a miserable day, slumping to a 77 after his opening 66, but on one under at least he will be around for the weekend.