Challenge of Ireland (Getty Images)
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay bounced back from injury and the worst putting display of his professional career to lead Richard Bland and home favourite Colm Moriarty by one stroke at the half-way mark of the Challenge of Ireland presented by Glasson.
Ramsay went back to his native Aberdeen to iron out his problematic putting after taking 38 putts in his second round en route to missing the cut in Wales last week – a performance on the greens that he admitted was a career low point.
That came in only his second event back after a frustrating four week lay- off, caused by a rib injury suffered playing football, which saw him slip down the top 20 to 39th in the European Challenge Tour Rankings.
Ramsay said his putting was much improved, if still far from perfect, as he carded a two under par round of 70 at Glasson Golf Hotel and Country Club to go into the weekend leading a tournament at this stage for the first time, on eight under par.
The 25 year old carded six birdies and two bogeys, finishing with back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 before dropping a shot on the last.
He said: “I putted well today but the longest putt I’ve holed all week has been about 12ft. My irons have been really good and my driving has been consistent.
“I played great in Wales last week but couldn’t buy a putt. I hit 38 putts in the second round which is a professional highest total for me. But I went back to Aberdeen and spent some time on it and just got more natural with it. It has paid off.
“I was out for four weeks the week before the Scottish Challenge. I was getting some good momentum with three top tens and I was ready to go. It was a tough time as you can’t do much.
“I was around 20th in the Rankings when I got injured. It’s been very frustrating as you watch yourself drop down the Rankings and you can’t do anything about it. I know from last year when I turned pro and played about eight events and finished 30th that if I can play as well this year I can push on.
Moriarty, who is Glasson Golf Hotel and Country Club’s touring professional, used his knowledge of his home course to full effect to shoot a second round two under par 70 in front of a large home crowd in Athlone.
The 29 year old, who is 111th on the European Challenge Tour Rankings, is looking for his second Challenge Tour win in as many years, following his victory at the FIRSTPLUS Wales Challenge last year.
He said:” It was a tough day and I know when it is a tough day round here. I didn't play brilliantly but I holed out well, hung in there well and finished nicely.
“It was tricky and knowing the course was an advantage because you know where you want to be hitting your shots in from and where you can't go. There are areas where you just can't be and I avoided all of those today. It was a good solid round in the conditions, unquestionably.”
Englishman Bland, who has mainly been playing on The European Tour this year, carded a superb round of 69 which included just two bogeys to join Moriarty for a share of second place on seven under par.
He said: “I played pretty solid out there today. It was very tricky with the wind so there were a lot of half shots. I just tried to make sure the wind didn’t affect the ball as much as possible. I played good solid golf.”
Overnight leader, Irishman Michael McDermott is a further two shots behind Bland and Moriarty on five under par after a three over par round of 75.