Scintillating 61 puts Fisher in charge in Ireland

By Norman Dabell

Ireland (Reuters) - Britain's Ross Fisher improved his chances of securing a debut Ryder Cup spot when he grabbed control of the Irish Open on Friday with a scintillating second round 10-under-par 61.

The 29-year-old broke the Killarney club course record by three shots as he surged to 12-under 130, three strokes clear of the field.

Last year's World Matchplay champion also threatened to record the first 59 on the European Tour as he ran up six successive birdies from the third hole and four in a row from the 11th.

He fell short of the magic mark, however, after missing chances over the closing holes.

"It was pretty flawless golf," the Englishman told reporters. "After a solid start I caught fire.

"It was a shame the run had to end on the ninth but then I got into another great patch. I gave myself four good looks at birdies at the last four holes but didn't make them and had to be satisfied with a 61."

Victory on Sunday would also move Fisher into Europe's nine automatic qualifying spots for this year's Ryder Cup, a place he could cement with good results at the WGC Invitational in Ohio and the U.S. PGA Championship next month.

"This is the start of three really important weeks for me with the Ryder Cup coming up," Fisher said. "This (61) gives me a lot of confidence knowing I can make a lot of birdies."

Fisher's blistering round was the first he has played with new caddie Phil 'Wobbly' Morbey, who was alongside Ian Woosnam for Ryder Cup matches and the Welshman's 1991 U.S. Masters victory.

"Wobbly's been on tour for 30 years, he is so experienced and he's giving me so much self-belief," added Fisher.

Italy's Francesco Molinari drew up to second place with a 66.

Molinari, who is hoping brother Edoardo can force his way into Europe's Ryder Cup team so they can reform their 2009 World Cup winning partnership, would virtually seal his place in Colin Montgomerie's team for Celtic Manor with victory in Ireland.

Three-times major winner Padraig Harrington, just one of Europe's high profile players still not assured of a Ryder Cup place, carded a 67 to be in a large group in third place five strokes behind Fisher.

A 68 also put tournament favorite Rory McIlroy in that pack. Darren Clarke (70) is a further stroke back.

U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell birdied the last for a 72 to make the level-par cut. Justin Rose, another still outside the Ryder Cup fold, returned a 68 to also make it on the cut line.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)