Inverness, Scotland – Alexander Noren fired his second consecutive 6-under 66 on Friday to grab a share of the lead after two rounds of the Scottish Open.
The Swede finished 36 holes at Castle Stuart Golf Links at 12-under-par 132. He is tied for first with Francesco Molinari, who carded a 2-under 70 on Friday after posting a course-record 62 in round one.
Ricardo Gonzalez and Matteo Manassero both shot 8-under 64 and share third at minus-11.
Another player to shoot 64 on Friday was Phil Mickelson, who had gone a while without a round that good. In Europe preparing for next week's British Open, Mickelson hadn't shot below 70 since the final round of the Byron Nelson Championship in mid-May.
Since then, he withdrew from the Memorial after a poor first round, tied for 65th at the U.S. Open, and missed the cut at the Greenbrier Classic.
But he got back on track with Friday's round, which pushed him into a share of 19th at minus-7.
"I hit a lot better shots today, struck it solidly and made a few putts," Mickelson said.
S.S.P. Chowrasia (67) is alone in fifth at minus-10, one stroke ahead of a large group that includes world No. 1 and defending champion Luke Donald, as well as Martin Kaymer. They both shot 68 to get to 9-under 135.
At the moment, everybody's chasing Noren and Molinari, who sit at the top of a crowded leaderboard despite both dropping several shots in their second rounds.
Noren had a double-bogey on his third hole -- the 12th -- which wiped out two opening birdies. But he steadied himself, and made the turn at minus-8 after rolling in birdies at 14 and 18.
He birdied the par-five second and eagled the next par five, No. 6, to reach minus-11. Noren, whose 30th birthday was Thursday, birdied his last to get the clubhouse lead.
"My last nine holes I played really well the whole nine, and it felt a lot better coming in with the 66 today than the 66 yesterday," Noren said.
Molinari began at the first tee in the afternoon wave, and struggled during his front nine. The Italian opened with a bogey before making birdie at three of the next five holes. However, he carded a triple bogey at No. 7.
He birdied the eighth to get back to minus-10 heading around the turn, and didn't make a mistake on the back nine. Molinari birdied Nos. 14 and 16 to join Noren in first.
"It wasn't easy to follow yesterday, and obviously a costly mistake at the seventh," said Molinari, who won the Open de Espana back in May. "But I did well to recover after that and fight back."
Molinari's countryman, Manassero, charged into second place thanks to a very strong front side. The teenager began on the 10th tee and made two birdies on the back side, but carded seven birdies and one bogey after making the turn.
Gonzalez was in the first group to tee off at No. 10, and sank five birdies on the back nine. The Argentine then eagled the second before carding a bogey at No. 3, but rebounded with two late bogeys to head into the weekend at minus-11.
In the sixth-place group along with Donald and Kaymer are Anthony Wall (68), Peter Lawrie (69), Alejandro Canizares (71), Matthew Baldwin (68), Anders Hansen (67), Shane Lowry (69), Thomas Aiken (67) and Thorbjorn Olesen (65).
NOTES: Peter Whiteford aced the par-3, 168-yard 11th hole on Friday. England's Andrew Johnston did the same on Thursday, and won 168 bottles of champagne for the feat...The cut fell at 4-under 140. Among those to miss it were former European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie (143) and Angel Cabrera (145).