Northern Irishman Chris Selfridge is hoping his one-shot clubhouse lead at the weather-affected SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts will prove a good omen ahead of his home country’s Euro 2016 knockout clash against Wales on Saturday.
The 24 year carded seven birdies for a seven under par second round 64 to hit the front on 13 under par, with Englishman James Heath the nearest challenger after he carded a stunning nine under 62 for a 12 under total.
Both players were out in the morning groups and managed to hand their cards in before the clouds descended on Spey Valley, the rain began to fall and the threat of lightning caused play to be suspended at 15:35 local time, for a total of three hours and 25 minutes.
Selfridge was delighted with his form over the opening two days and, having finished in the top ten in Aviemore last year, he is feeling confident heading into the weekend.
“I played lovely today,” said the former University of Toledo graduate. “I hit plenty of good shots, made a few putts and got a few bits of luck along the way – exactly how you would plan it.
“I played well yesterday too with a 65, so I knew my game was good. But to shoot those scores you definitely need a bit of luck along the way, putts to drop. Some days everything goes against you so you take these days and make the most of them.
I would support both Irish teams and it’s brilliant to see them both going through... it’s been a great distraction
“I look back over my career and think, have I ever played better over two rounds? Probably not, but there’s such a long way to go and golf is a cruel game at times so I’m well aware of what can happen, but I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.
“Momentum is massive in golf, there’s no getting around that. Whenever you make that big putt and you head to the next tee, you feel like you’re floating at times, so it was very important today.
“I played quite well here last year and I love the venue. This is one of my favourite golf courses so just playing two more rounds here is great but I’ll be hoping to do well too.
“We’re only half way there and I wouldn’t say I have too many expectations. That’s something I struggle with, putting too much pressure on myself but there’s a long way to go. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully the putts will drop.”
With his home country set for a crunch clash against Wales in the football European Championships, as well as the Republic of Ireland’s match-up against hosts France, Selfridge is looking forward to what the weekend has to bring both on the course and off the course.
“I would support both Irish teams quite closely and it’s brilliant to see them both going through,” he said. “It’s been a great distraction – everyone you meet or play with is talking about it.
“I was playing with Reinier Saxton today and I asked him, how the Netherlands are doing, and he said they’re unbeaten because they’re not even in the tournament! It’s great fun with all the guys, great craic.
“It’s good to see and I hope both teams do well. I fancy Northern Ireland to beat Wales but we’ll see how it goes.”
Heath’s last and only victory on the Challenge Tour came ten years ago in Denmark so he was thrilled to be in contention at the weekend after an incredible round which comprised nine birdies and not a single dropped shot.
“I was very pleased with that. Any day that I can card no bogeys will make me very happy – people have been saying to me lately that they’ve been seeing plenty of birdies but too many bogeys so it’s nice to have a blemish-free round.
“There was no wind out there this morning so it really was a case of whatever you can see, you hit. The course is in great condition and rolling true so they’ve done a really good job here.
“Some rounds you just leave yourself with good numbers, you hit a good drive and suddenly it’s a perfect wedge or perfect nine iron so I had a lot of those which is good.
“It’s nice to be in the last few groups, getting amongst it and feeling the heat so I’m pleased. I am confident, a bit apprehensive though because it’s been a long time since I’ve been up there in contention.
“When I get into contention I really love it, so I feel like I’ve done the hard part and I’m hoping it will just take a hold of me when I get in contention. I’m trying not to think too much about it but I’m just buzzing to get out there and feel the nerves and all that stuff. I’m relatively confident.”
New Zealand's Ryan Fox moved into outright third place late in the day as the 29 year old finished with two birdies to sign for a 66 and enter the weekend on 11 under.
Jens Dantorp carded a second successive five under 66 to move to ten under and the Swede was joined in a share of fourth place by Englishmen Jordan L Smith, a winner already on the Challenge Tour this year, and Tom Murray.