Poulter's search for first US Tour win gathers pace

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Ian Poulter stepped up his effort for a first US Tour win by performing well in New Orleans yesterday.

While the overnight leader, Graeme McDowell, managed only a one-over-par 73 and slipped to joint 11th, Poulter added a 68 to his opening 67 and midway through the day's play shared second place.

The Milton Keynes golfer was nine under par, three behind the new pacesetter, Joe Durant, who matched McDowell's first-day 64.

The Masters champion, Phil Mickelson, had to be content with a 71, going in the water with his third shot to the long 15th and running up a double-bogey seven.

Mickelson, seeking a third successive win, now stands five under, as does Justin Rose, while Padraig Harrington, who played with the American, improved to 21st place on six under with a 68.

Poulter birdied the first, seventh and eighth to turn in 33, picked up further strokes on the 11th and 13th, but bogeyed at the 16th.

McDowell took the first-round lead by holing his second shot to the ninth, his last, for an eagle two, but on the resumption missed the green at the first and had a bogey.

The Northern Irishman did have birdies at the seventh and 15th, but dropped further shots at the 14th and 18th, where his approach found rough and he missed from six feet.

Lee Westwood, among the later starters, was three under after five holes.

* Hartlepool's Graeme Storm kept alive his hopes of a maiden European Tour victory yesterday. A second round 67 in the Spanish Open at San Roque and took him back into the lead.