Australian Peter Lonard opened up a two stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Nissan Irish Open, a two under par 70 at County Louth Golf Club, Baltray, taking him to ten under par 134 and two clear of Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher and South African James Kingston.
Lonard got off to the perfect start, birdying the first and eagling the second, his seven iron approach nestling ten feet from the hole and the putt duly converted to take him to 11 under par. But a couple of loose shots on the third and fifth holes cost him shots as he reached the turn in 34. A birdie at 13th was cancelled out by a dropped shot on the 14th but he a third birdie of the round on the 16th established a two stroke lead.
“It was a little tougher today and the wind came from a different direction,” said Lonard. There were a lot of approach shots played in a cross wind which made it a serious test. I got off to a great start and then hit some ordinary shots. I was in perfect position on the third to hit it close and hit a stinking nine iron up in the wind. The par three, right to left wind and lost it on the breeze again. That was where I hit my worst shots. The right to left breeze I struggled with a bit today and paid the penalty on those holes. But as I said yesterday if you have a weakness or a certain shot you are not enjoying playing, you are going to have to hit it somewhere out there so it is only a matter of time.”
Gallacher, the nephew of three time European Ryder Cup Captain Bernard, lies two shots off the pace after adding a 70 to his opening 66 as he chases his maiden Tour victory. Gallacher has been knocking on the door for some time and stepped up his bid for the title with an eagle, three birdies and three dropped shots.
“I didn’t feel I played that great, played better yesterday,” he said. “But I’ll take eight under at halfway. It was a lot tougher today. A different wind and a lot colder. Difficult pins so a lot harder. It’s early doors, a lot of golf to play but if I keep chiselling away and keep thinking the same way, who knows.
“You try and learn from all these experiences and you are bound to take one sooner or later. I am playing consistent now and just need a bit of luck and hopefully things will go your way. Certainly feel I have a chance to win now, feel I have the game which is half the battle, bit more self belief.”
Joining Gallacher on eight under par was Kingston, the South African enjoying a remarkable run of success with five successive birdies from holes two to six for a second day running. Ten under par for those five holes alone this week has certainly helped the cause.
“I don’t know what is happening from the second to the sixth,” said Kingston. “I must have a love affair with those few holes. But you have three par fives, a shortish par four and quite a tricky par three on the fifth hole but hit two great iron shots on those two and on the par fives hit great tee shots, good second shots on the greens and two putted. Looks like I have a love affair with those few holes and hope they can serve me well over the next two days.”
A group of five players lie on seven under par. The leading Irish challenge is coming from Padraig Harrington and Peter Lawrie, the two Dubliners lying on four under par at the halfway stage. Harrington posted a second successive 70 despite aggravating a shoulder injury on the range during his warm up which necessitated 20 minutes of physio treatment before his round. Harrington puts the injury down to over-practice, but admitted to being “obsessive” and maintained work needed to be done on his swing.
Lawrie, last season’s Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, matched Harrington’s total with a one over par 73.
The cut fell at level par with 74 players progressing to the weekend.