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Casey opens three-shot lead at British Masters

Associated Press

Sutton Coldfield, England — Paul Casey shot a 6-under-par 66 on Friday to open a three-stroke lead midway through the British Masters on Friday at The Belfry.

Casey has an 11-under-par, 133 total, with Darren Clarke in second place after his 2-under-par 70.

Scotland's Colin Montgomerie shot 75 and missed the cut at the Brabazon course for the sixth event in nine this year.

Five players — U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell, Ian Poulter, Stephen Gallacher, Johan Edfors, and Peter O'Malley — were tied for third at 7-under-par.

Casey won the last European Tour tournament played at The Belfry — the now-defunct Benson and Hedges International in 2003 — and also played his first pro event here in 2001.

"I was very happy with that," Casey said. "I gave myself as many opportunities for birdies as I could and managed to save a couple of pars on 10 and 11.

"I feel lucky to get out with 66. There's a lot of golf left yet. I've been very fortunate to keep it out of trouble — it's far from over."

Clarke, whose wife is battling cancer, continued to play above his expectations.

"I definitely did not think I'd be 8-under-par after two rounds. I played OK. The greens were tough to putt on because they were a little bumpy. Paul must be putting well."

Campbell was unable to repeat his first-round 67, shooting a 2-under-par 70 as he battled a cold and rustiness after taking a month off.

"I think today was a reflection on not playing much at all," Campbell said. "I hit a few stray shots which cost me a few bogeys.

"But it's nice to play your 'B game' and still have a chance. I know I'm going in the right direction."

Poulter, a Ryder Cup player, hasn't won since capturing the 2004 Volvo Masters title.

"I've learned to stay patient," Poulter said. "It did me no good getting upset about it.

"I think I've learned that lesson."

The Englishman's round included two birdie putts of 18 feet.

Graeme McDowell is at 6-under-par after a 68 that included a double bogey and a hole-in-one. His 175-yard seven iron bounced once and aced the seventh hole.

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