Morrison Takes Halfway Lead at French Open

England's 26-year-old Morrison fires second round 66 for lead

VERSAILLES, July 1, 2011 (AFP) - England's James Morrison, who gave up a promising career as a cricketer to concentrate on golf, took a one-stroke halfway lead in the French Open on Friday.

The 26-year-old fired a second straight 66 for a 10-under total and that put him one stroke clear of Australia's Richard Green, the joint first round leader with Graeme Storm of England.

Green had a 68 and was three strokes clear of England's Mark Foster, who also had a 68.

Tied on five under, a stroke further back came Richie Ramsey of Scotland (68), Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark (71) and Matthew Nixon of England (69).

Morrison's form has come as something of a surprise even to himself as he had contemplated pulling out of the tournament on Wednesday through illness.

The Englishman has suffered from Crohn's Disease - an intestinal inflammation - for the past decade and it flared up again at the start of the week.

"I almost drove home Wednesday morning, but I've had some steroids and it's calming me down," Morrison said.

"It's something I've been used to dealing with on a daily basis," he added. "I'm feeling a little bit drained, but I play better with that because I don't have expectations

"I feel a bit worse for wear and just stroll through the day."

Morrison's decision to choose golf over cricket - he played in the same England Youths team as current one-day captain Alastair Cook and Tim Bresnan - has already paid dividends.

He won in his rookie season last year and has earned over £500,000, but there is a first prize of over £442,000 on offer this weekend and also a place in next month's British Open at Royal St George's.

Morrison had missed his last four cuts and last July crashed out by eight shots at the Le Golf National, the course that has been chosen to host the 2018 Ryder Cup.

Joint overnight leader Green at one stage reached 11 under, but a double-bogey six on the seventh meant he swapped places with Morrison.

World number four Martin Kaymer, champion two years ago, shot 69 to move to two under, one better than Colin Montgomerie, who now needs a magical weekend to take the British Open spot he so craves.

Top American hope Bubba Watson, meanwhile, made an early and disappointing exit after carding two rounds of 74 in what was his first regular European Tour event, but not before having a blast at the level of crowd control.

"On every tee it says no phones, no video cameras and on every tee there's hundreds," said Watson.

"It's different - it's not a normal tournament. There's cameras, there's phones, no security. I don't know which holes to walk through - there's no ropes.

"I'm not saying it's bad, it's just something I'm not used to and not comfortable with. It's very strange to me."

The American was heading home after a bit more sightseeing, but confirmed he will be back for The Open at Royal St George's in two weeks.

Also missing the cut was last year's winner, Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez, who struggled with 79 to stand at eight over.

Leading scores on Friday in the second round of the French Open at the par-71 Le Golf National course (GBR and IRL unless stated):

132 - James Morrison 66 66

133 - Richard Green (AUS) 65 68

136 - Mark Foster 68 68

137 - Richie Ramsay 69 68, Matthew Nixon 68 69, Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN) 66 71

138 - Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 68 70, Paul Broadhurst 68 70

139 - Anders Hansen (DEN) 70 69, Michael Campbell (NZL) 72 67, Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL) 69 70, Lorenzo Gagli (ITA) 72 67, Jose Manuel Lara (ESP) 72 67

140 - Hennie Otto (RSA) 69 71, Christian Nilsson (SWE) 70 70, Peter Whiteford 68 72, Marcel Siem (GER) 74 66, Martin Kaymer (GER) 71 69, Graeme Storm 65 75, Lloyd Saltman 71 69, Simon Khan 70 70, Thomas Levet (FRA) 70 70, Bradley Dredge 72 68

141 - Francois Delamontagne (FRA) 71 70, Colin Montgomerie 71 70, Rafael Echenique (ARG) 70 71, George Coetzee (RSA) 66 75, Seve Benson 71 70, Anthony Wall 68 73, Thomas Bjorn (DEN) 71 70, Jamie Donaldson 70 71, Gregory Havret (FRA) 71 70

142 - Richard Bland 74 68, Jeppe Huldahl (DEN) 68 74, Chris Wood 70 72, Gareth Maybin 70 72, Matthew Zions (AUS) 71 71, Victor Dubuisson (FRA) 73 69, Jin Jeong (KOR) 71 71, Tetsuji Hiratsuka (JPN) 72 70, Michael Jonzon (SWE) 68 74, Paul McGinley 71 71

143 - Martin Wiegele (AUT) 71 72, Matteo Manassero (ITA) 68 75, Julien Guerrier (FRA) 68 75, Rhys Davies 71 72, David Lynn 69 74, Kenneth Ferrie 71 72, Florian Fritsch (GER) 74 69, Stephen Gallacher 74 69, David Dixon 71 72, Ignacio Garrido (ESP) 72 71, Pablo Martin (ESP) 74 69, Michael Hoey 72 71

144 - Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 68 76, Robert Jan Derksen (NED) 72 72, Daniel Gaunt (AUS) 75 69, Peter Lawrie 74 70, Johan Edfors (SWE) 73 71, Alex Cejka (GER) 73 71, Felipe Aguilar (CHI) 71 73, Brendan Steele (USA) 74 70, Robert Rock 70 74, Alexander Noren (SWE) 74 70, Alejandro Canizares (ESP) 73 71, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 75 69, Edoardo Molinari (ITA) 75 69