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Markus Brier leads. Big names stumble

World number one Lee Westwood and sixth-ranked Paul Casey missed the cut while number two Martin Kaymer and seventh-ranked Steve Stricker scraped through by the skin of their teeth at the Qatar Masters on Friday.

While some of the heavyweights struggled to cope with the difficult Doha Golf Club course, little-known Austrian Markus Brier opened up a one-stroke lead after a faultless six-under 66 gave him a seven-under tally of 137.

The 42-year-old Brier was one ahead of South African Darren Fichardt (68) while defending champion Robert Karlsson of Sweden (69), Briton Richard Finch (69) and Dane Thomas Bjorn (65) were sharing third place on 139.

Briton Westwood cited early-season rust after rounds of 73 and 75 meant he failed to qualify for the weekend on four-over 148.

Kaymer recovered from an opening 77 to shoot a 70 and wound up right on the cut mark of 147. If the German could finish in the top two on Sunday he would dethrone Westwood as world number one.

American Stricker also squeezed through with rounds of 76 and 71 but Briton Casey, winner of last week’s Volvo Champions event in Bahrain, went out after following an opening 74 with a second-round 75.

Westwood missed his first cut in 13 months after a 25-foot eagle putt failed to drop at the last hole.

“My opportunity to play all four days is gone now,” the Englishman told Reuters. “Of course it would have been nice to play the weekend and get rid of the rust that’s still in my game.

“I didn’t play very well today and that’s the reason I missed the cut.”

Westwood indicated he would spend the weekend working with his coach at the Emirates Golf Club, venue of next week’s Dubai Desert Classic.

Brier enjoyed a welcome return to form on Friday after losing his European Tour card last year and having to return to qualifying school.

“At the end of the season I really had to go back to my roots by playing qualifying school,” said the twice tour winner.

“Today I could see in the morning there was a little less wind and the opportunities were there. I kept the ball in play and holed two or three really long putts.”

Kaymer was satisfied with his improved showing but still uncomfortable on the putting surfaces.

“I was not very pleased yesterday with the way I played so I am a little happier today,” he said. “But then it’s the funny nature of this sport we play.

“One day you can have a 77 without one birdie and then today you can shoot a round of 70 with two birdies and no bogeys. I am trying hard to shoot a good score but I just can’t putt on these greens.”

Bjorn produced one of the day’s highlights with a run of five straight birdies from the second hole.

On the flip side of the coin former world number four Henrik Stenson threw his wedge into the lake after duffing a chip as he also missed the cut.

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