Despite difficult conditions with a blustery wind, Ireland’s Damien McGrane kept his place at the top of the leaderboard in the Formby Hall Challenge on Merseyside. A second round 68 for 133, 11 under par, leaves him two strokes clear of Lee Thompson and four ahead of another Englishman Grant Hamerton.
McGrane was out from the 10th tee and signed for four birdies without dropping a shot, which was a considerable achievement in the wind that gusted around the course and sent many scores soaring.
In the conditions, there was little chance of McGrane repeating his first round 65, but he was back in 32 and remarked: "I played better today but the wind was considerable more difficult and it was very easy to drop shots."
The 30 year old feels at home here after finishing third last year but he is not sure if he likes the course. "I suppose I like it because it hasn't bit me just yet," he added.
Thompson, the 29 year old from Bournemouth, went round in 68 for 135, nine under par, and agreed conditions were not conducive for low scoring. "It was a lot more windy today and quite tricky," he said. "Club selection was much more difficult with the par threes playing at least two clubs more."
Even so, Thompson signed for an eagle and six birdies in his 68 to give himself a great chance of improving on his best Challenge Tour finish of 11th in Zambia earlier in the year.
Hamerton, who shared the lead with McGrane overnight, could do no better than 72 and was joined on 137 by Paul Sherman, who amazed everyone with a best-of-the-day 66 in which he didn’t drop a shot and signed for six birdies.
“It was just one of those days when everything went right,” he said. “When I got into trouble I managed to get out of it without dropping a shot while my putter worked well. I’ve now carded 10 birdies and one triple bogey in two rounds. This course must be lucky for me as I shot 66 in the second round last year.”
Frenchman Olivier David is the leading non-British player on 138 after a second 69 in which he also had to thank his putter. “I have missed seven cuts in a row because of my putting so I decided to go cross-handed this week and it is working,” he said.
“It’s a boost to my whole game because I don’t mind playing in the wind because I hit the ball low. I hope the cross-handed method continues to work for me otherwise I might decide to try the long-handled putter.”
The cut came at one over par 145 with 57 players including one amateur surviving for the weekend. The amateur was England boy international Tom Whitehouse, who was one of seven players to return 69, leaving him on two under par 142.
Scotland’s David Patrick, playing his first professional tournament, and David Dixon, making his Challenge Tour debut, both lived to fight another day, Patrick on 143 and Dixon on the 145 limit.