Ryder Cup teammates Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer both turned in an impressive second round on Thursday to join Ricardo Santos and Marcus Fraser atop the leaderboard at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Garcia's 6-under 66 marked the low score of the second round, while Kaymer and Fraser both turned in a 67. Santos, the overnight leader, managed a 70 at Doha Golf Club and joined the others at 9-under 135 through 36 holes.
Kaymer, who drilled the winning putt at Medinah in September, is fresh off a sixth-place tie at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, while Garcia is in the midst of his season debut.
"It was nice -- I definitely felt I played a little bit better than yesterday," said Garcia. "Obviously I would have loved to hit a couple of shots better, but I gave myself a lot of chances and I can't be disappointed."
Thorbjorn Olesen, coming off a second-place tie in Abu Dhabi, shot 68 on Thursday. The up-and-coming Dane is tied with Michael Campbell (68), Felipe Aguilar (67), George Coetzee (67) and Gary Lockerbie (69) at 8-under.
There is still much room for jostling, however, as the top 41 players on the leaderboard are all within five shots of one another.
Anthony Wall (71), Garth Mulroy (68), Alexandre Kaleka (71), Chris Wood (70) and Andreas Harto (69) share 10th at 7-under, while Branden Grace (68), who placed fifth in Abu Dhabi, is tied with four others at minus-6.
Justin Rose highlights a group of 11 knotted in 20th place at 5-under. The world No. 4, who, along with Olesen finished a shot behind winner Jamie Donaldson in Abu Dhabi, carded a 71. On Wednesday, he was assessed a 1-stroke penalty when his ball moved prior to a tap-in par attempt.
World No. 5 Louis Oosthuizen (69), a victor at the Volvo Golf Champions in his previous start, is 4-under, while Jason Dufner (70) and world No. 18 Peter Hanson (73) are both 3-under. Dufner is making his first appearance in Qatar.
Current Open champion Ernie Els made the cut at 1-under, but last year's Qatar Masters winner Paul Lawrie was not as fortunate.
Lawrie, a teammate of Garcia and Kaymer during Europe's improbable Ryder Cup victory at Medinah, turned in consecutive 72s and missed the cut by a single stroke.
Paul McGinley, who will look to continue the European team's success as the 2014 Ryder Cup captain, missed the cut a 4-over.
Colin Montgomerie, who was in the running for 2014 captainship, failed to qualify for the weekend at plus-7.
Santos, the 2012 Rookie of the Year, grabbed a 1-stroke advantage after the opening round, then watched as Garcia and Kaymer overtook him during the early wave on Thursday.
Neither Garcia nor Kaymer dropped a shot during the second round. The former carded three birdies each on both his front and back nine, while the latter highlighted his round with a 20-foot hole-out for birdie on No. 8.
Santos quickly jumped back on top with three birdies in his first four holes, but the remainder of his round was marred by inconsistency. He stumbled to a bogey on No. 7, then began his back nine with a birdie/bogey/birdie stretch. That last birdie again gave Santos the lead at 10-under, but he bogeyed again on the par-4 15th to fall back to the pack.
"This afternoon the wind is a little bit stronger than the morning, so I'm happy with 2-under," noted Santos. "It's never easy, but I started really well -- after four holes I was three under -- so I told myself to just keep playing like that."
Fraser, who is seeking his third European Tour win, began his round with nine straight pars before jumping into contention with five birdies in a seven-hole stretch.
"Overall I felt like I played pretty steadily most of the day," said Fraser. "I made a few birdies once I got on to the back nine, which was the front nine, but I'm pretty happy with the day."
NOTES: Santos is coming off a fourth-place finish in Abu Dhabi. He is looking to secure his second European Tour victory after capturing the Madeira Islands Open title during his inaugural campaign ... Lawrie was trying to become the tournament's first-ever back-to-back winner and its only three-time champion. He was also attempting to become the oldest player in European Tour history to defend his title -- 44 years and 25 days.