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Rock, McDowell share Irish Open lead

CORK, Ireland – England's Robert Rock is hoping for a turnaround in crowd support after he and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell moved into a share of the clubhouse lead in the Irish Open in Cork.

Rock and McDowell each shot four under par 66s to move to eight under par in ideal scoring conditions on the Fota Island Resort course.

England's Robert Rock is hoping for a turnaround in crowd support after he and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell moved into a share of the clubhouse lead in the Irish Open. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images. Credit: Getty Images

In 1999, Rock found himself in an Irish Open play-off with Irish-born then amateur Shane Lowry at the County Louth course in Baltray.

Lowry won through at the third extra hole but not before Rock had to endure many unsavoury comments from a partisan Irish crowd, and with his one consultation being Lowry's amateur status meant Rock received the 500,000 euro prize cheque.

And after again finishing runner-up a year ago at Carton House near Dublin, Rock is hoping a turnaround in Irish crowd support can help him capture a third European Tour success.

“The crowd has been quite good this week but not that much that particular day in 2009, but I guess they are now feeling a bit sorry for me, and they've all been very nice,” he said.

McDowell capped his round with five birdies over his closing eight holes as he not only looks to win for a first time this year but also capture a maiden Irish Open title with his prior best finish being a share of 11th a decade ago and at Co. Louth.

“Typically this is a big week and a lot of pressure and expectation but I feel coming off last week at the U.S. Open, that pressure and expectation is maybe lower than normal,” he said.

“So that's perhaps a reason why I'm a little bit more comfortable in general and I'm looking forward to the weekend and getting into some kind of contention, and enjoying the crowds here at Fota Island.”

Italy's Marco Crespi (67) and England's Matthew Nixon (65) share third place on seven under par.

Finland's Mikko Ilonen, who set a new course record with his opening day 64, is out in the afternoon half of the draw.

And defending champion Paul Casey of England shot a successive 69 to be well placed on four under par. – Sapa-AFP

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