Phil Price, by his own admission, may not be a superstar – yet – but he certainly played like one at Druids Glen by shooting a 65 to share the halfway lead with Dane Soren Hansen in the Murphy’s Irish Open.
The 32 year old Welshman, currently 21st on the Volvo Order of Merit, played with the man who has topped the list for six years, Colin Montgomerie, and out-scored him by three shots over the first 36 holes.
With a 10 under par total of 134, Price and Hansen hold a three stroke lead over the chasing pack, and Montgomerie was quick to praise a player who has come on by leaps and bounds over the past two seasons.
Montgomerie, satisfied with a 67 himself for 137, said: “I see a much more ambitious and self-confident Phil Price, someone who has much more belief than he once had and he’s certainly very ambitious.
“He’s working hard on his body and his technique. He hits the ball very, very straight and putts well. With this extra self belief he’s someone who is going to take some catching.”
Price accepted the compliment graciously and admitted: “It’s nice of Monty to say it. It was good to play with him. He sets the standards we aim at. It tells me how much I have to improve.
“I’m developing slowly. I would rather be a superstar now at 32 but I’ve certainly found things recently to help my progress.”
Price genuinely has improved over the last two seasons and his six birdie, no bogey round of 65 put him right up at the top of the leaderboard along with Hansen, the Dane with the penchant for the unexpected.
In the recent German Open, Hansen holed a tee shot and won a BMW car. At Druids Glen he opened his second round with a drive and an eight iron which popped sweetly into the hole for an eagle two. Not a bad way to begin a roller-coaster round of 63, one shot outside the course record, which incorporated another eagle (a conventional one at the long 16th) and a birdie at the last, when he almost repeated his opening approach with a five iron.
Hansen said: “Today was a nice feeling when I holed me shot at the first hole. I hope this is going to become a habit.”
Montgomerie, twice a winner and beaten in a play-off last year, is a big danger on seven under par, a position he shares with five others – leading Irish hope Eamonn Darcy, Jeev Milkha Singh, Jarrod Moseley and Alex Cejka.
Thomas Bjorn, the greater of the two Danes in contention, moved into contention with a 66 for 136, assisted by an ace at the 17th – the third in two days of competition.
John Daly, facing the ignominy of missing the cut, conjured up a little piece of magic. He hit a seven iron to ten feet and holed the eagle putt on the 16th to ensure his survival into the weekend. He finished with a 72 for a one under par total of 143, just a solitary shot within the cut mark, which fell at level par. A total of 68 players will play over the last two days.