England’s David Lynn found the perfect antidote for the summertime blues at Portmarnock as he fired a best-of-the-day 65 to glide effortlessly to the head of the leaderboard after two rounds of the Nissan Irish Open.
On a day of mixed fortunes for the Irish – Peter Lawrie climbed into third place, Paul McGinley played his way back into contention with a 66 while Padraig Harrington missed the cut – Lynn’s seven under par score hoisted him into the lead on 134, ten under par, one ahead of New Zealand’s Michael Campbell, who announced his intention to return to play full-time on The European Tour.
It was a superb effort by Lynn who, at 29 and a professional for six years, still awaits his first victory on The European Tour. He has been runner-up twice while four top ten finishes so far in 2003 have secured his card for another year. However that elusive win has remained tantalisingly just out of reach.
Lynn confessed that he goes through a period of stagnation each year, brought on by the rigours of life on Tour. Last week he played in his first Open Championship and the adrenalin surge caused by the huge crowds at Royal St George’s rekindled his enthusiasm for the fray.
“I seem to go off the boil a bit in the middle of the season” he explained. “I just get a bit stale and bored. It can get a bit mundane and monotonous at times, although the enthusiasm usually comes back in the end. It’s something that seems to kick in every year at some point.
“I thought the Open was a great experience. I loved it and I got a good buzz from playing in that tournament. I want to experience it more often and the only way to do that is get to the top of the leaderboard and play in the final groups at the weekend.”
Lynn will be doing precisely that over Portmarnock’s wonderful links when he tees up in the third round with Campbell, who has experienced something of a lull in his career this season. Seven starts before this week have not produced one top 20 finish, but a round of 69 moved the Kiwi within a stroke of Lynn on 135.
Campbell passed his playing partner and first round leader Thomas Björn – the Dane being ten shots worse than his oening 64 – and admitted: “It’s nice to be among the contenders again. I’ve struggled the last three or four months. All I can do is control my own emotions and the golf ball, hit it, find it and see what happens.”
Last year’s Smurfit European Open champion has elected to return from the US PGA Tour to play full time in Europe again. He added; “A combination of a lot of things have made me more settled. I am more comfortable here than on that side of the Atlantic and I am here and looking forward to playing some golf over the next month or so. I will play two events in the States then come back here to play the rest of The European Tour.”
The highlight of Lawrie’s 68 for a total of 138 was a pair of twos at the 12th and 15th holes – two of the great par threes in links golf – which he attributed to his vast local knowledge, accumulated over three years as a member when he played virtually every day.
“I feel very comfortable here” he said. “I don’t find it intimidating to be four off the lead in the Irish Open. Why should it be? Most of the people following me are friends and family and I don’t view that as pressure. I used to play here every single day over three years so you can work out how often I’ve played Portmarnock!”
McGinley’s 66 was a timely reminder of what he can achieve. Last year’s Ryder Cup hero has gone through some lean weeks but moved into a tie for tenth place on the day he received an invitation to the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
“I’m obviously pleased about that. My performance in the Open has given me a little boost to push me in and I am pleased to play there. Apparently the call came into the ISM office yesterday and Chubby (Chandler) left a message on my mobile, although I havne’t actually picked it up yet!”
McGinley admitted that he is reaching a thrillng segment of the season. He said: “It is exciting when you play well. I have an opportunity now to play in the US PGA and the WGC- NEC Invitational in America and that is important for my world ranking.”
Darren Clarke shot a four under par 68 for a one under par total of 143 to make the cut by one shot, but there was disappointment for Harrington, who needed to birdie the last to squeeze through, in much the same way as he survived the cut at the Smurfit European Open a few weeks earlier. He had two double bogey sixes in a round of 76 which left him outside the cut line of 144 by a stroke.