Oscar Lengden strengthened his position at the top of the Irish Challenge hosted by Mount Wolseley Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort leaderboard after a second successive round of 68 took him three shots clear of the field at the halfway stage.
No player has won back-to-back European Challenge Tour events since Kristoffer Broberg in 2012 but Lengden, winner of last week’s Bridgestone Challenge, looked to be in winning form once again as he reached eight under par overall.
The Swede won twice on the Nordic Golf League last year on his way to securing promotion to the Road to Oman and will have to lead from the front if he is to match that tally with a second win this week, in contrast to his late surge in England last Sunday.
“It’s an interesting situation,” said the 25 year old. “I’m not a huge fan of being hunted by other players but I will accept that competition and I will do my best.
“Last year on the Nordic League, when I was in the lead I would play for a number, not against the players behind me, so I’ll set a number for tomorrow and then work against that – it’s got to be low so I don’t feel satisfied, so probably something like 14 under.
“The game’s progressing nicely. Today I actually struck the ball better than yesterday so I left myself a lot of easier putts – there’s still a few things to work on, but I’m very happy with the way it’s looking right now.
“My confidence is sky high right now, it’s almost too much! I’m trying to bring myself down to Earth at the moment and it is tough, but it’s important to stay neutral and to lower your expectations.
“The first thought I had when I arrived here was, ‘now you can relax, you’ve got a win under your belt,’ but at the same time you can never think like that when entering a golf tournament – you have to think you’re there to win, and that’s why I’m here.
“I didn’t start my season as I wanted to. I struggled a bit, my ball striking was all over the place and my putting was bad, but I still knew deep down that I could play great golf.
“I had two seasons of good golf behind me so I just needed to keep grinding and I’ve always been a slow starter – I usually pick up speed in the late summer so I’m very pleased with where I’m at right now.”
Julien Guerrier is Lengden’s nearest challenger, the Frenchman fully justifying his billing as the highest-ranked player in the field with a 68 of his own that took him to five under par.
Behind him is his compatriot Jérôme Lando Casanova after he too shot a 68 to move to four under par, alongside England’s Steven Brown, showing the form that took him to third place last week.
On Irish soil, Dubliner David Carey and Ardglass’ Cormac Sharvin lead the charge on one under par, with Ruaidhri McGee of Derry one shot further back.
The Irish story of the day, however, belonged to Mark Power, the 17 year old amateur from Kilkenny who had to take two days off school to compete in the tournament.
Having opened with an 83, Power was 16 shots better today, his 67 the lowest round of the week – matched by Mathieu Fenasse later in the afternoon – but unfortunately not quite enough for him to make the cut, which fell at three over par, with 61 players surviving for the weekend.