Martin Kaymer is in with a chance of a second successive title at the Alstom French Open. The 25-year-old German added a 67 to his opening 66 at Le Golf National on Friday to be just one behind Spaniard Alejandro Canizares at halfway.
Last year, Kaymer beat Lee Westwood in a playoff, then went to the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond and won there as well. But just a few weeks later, he broke three toes in a go-kart crash and was forced out of the game for two months.
"I went go-karting again earlier this year, but there will definitely be no more before the Ryder Cup," said Kaymer, currently sixth in the race for places on Colin Montgomerie's European team for the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in October.
Both he and Canizares, son of 1989 Ryder Cup hero Jose-Maria Canizares, had their rounds interrupted for nearly 2 1/2 hours by a thunderstorm. At that stage, they were two behind Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen, but Canizares then had four birdies in his last five holes for a second 66 in a row and Kaymer birdied the 10th, 14th and 17th.
"My dad is coming tomorrow, so I'm really looking forward to the weekend," added world No. 11 Kaymer.
Canizares, whose one previous victory came in Russia four years ago, had to return to qualifying school last November, but fellow graduates Simon Khan and Fredrik Andersson Hed have already lifted trophies and the 27-year-old from Madrid hopes to do the same on Sunday.
Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, both doubtful before Thursdayâs first round with leg problems, are 3 under after rounds of 69 and 67 -- but with less than two weeks to go to the start of the British Open, Westwood was limping badly over the closing stretch.
The world No. 3 went to the hospital for a check-up on Wednesday after it was feared he might have a blood clot, but tests proved otherwise and he revealed he has been battling with a sore Achilles tendon for seven months.
"I think I just need to ice it," he said. "It doesn't hurt when I swing -- I guess a little bit on the way through -- but it's the walking. It doesn't feel very nice on short, sharp hills and there are a lot of them around here."
Westwood had a hat trick of birdies early on, but bogeyed the 17th for the second day running and put his tee shot into the lake for a double bogey 5 at the short second. He came back, though, with further birdies on the sixth and seventh.
Poulter was pleased with his recovery from a bad reaction to an insect bite on Monday and did not drop a stroke.
Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald, the other world top-10 players in the field, were both 3 under as well, but Montgomerie missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the last and missed the cut by one on 2 over. It is now over two years since he had a top-10 finish.
French star Jean Van de Velde, who in only his second event of the year began with a 66 for joint second place, set off again with a double bogey and with a 76 fell right back to level par.