Michael Lorenzo-Vera leads The Irish Open and will have to continue his level of performace to hold off a host of The European Tour's most established stars, including Irishmen Clarke, Harrington, McGinley and McIlroy.
The Frenchman, the 2007 European Challenge Tour Number One carded a second round of two under par 70 to post the leading score of six under 138, one shot clear of Germany’s Marcel Siem and two clear of Australia’s Richard Green and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain.
Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, who, along with playing partner Paul McGinley, delighted the huge Irish galleries at the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort, is among the six strong group on three under, while McGinley finished among the ten players on two under – the same mark as Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.
Clarke and McGinley – Ryder Cup Team mates for the past three matches – compiled a pair of three under par 69s to bring the second round to life in the morning groups, while McIlroy and, of course, defending champion Padraig Harrington picked up the mantle in the afternoon sunshine at Adare.
Despite a frustrating day on the greens, Harrington remains ominously in contention after his second round 71, and is just five behind Lorenzo-Vera going into the final 36 holes.
“I just have to try and stay patient and hope the putting turns. I think if I keep doing what I'm doing, it's going to turn – 36 holes to go is a long way, and five shots isn't that much.
“You know, nobody is going to find it easy out there. Who knows what's going to happen on the weekend; I'm just going to do my thing, play good golf and try to stay patient. Hopefully a few putts start to drop and I can get some momentum.”
Clarke’s second round score ensured the BMW Asian Open champion gathered some momentum heading into the business end of The Irish Open.
“I am very pleased with that because I didn't play particularly well at all today and my ball striking was poor. My speed on the greens was poor and I managed to just hang in there and sneak it around,” said Clarke.
“Paul played fantastic all day. He had a tough finish. He probably could have shot 65 or 66. I was just trying to hang onto him the way he was playing and I got a couple of good breaks at the end.”
McGinley was frustrated to finish with a bogey at the last, but has been delighted with the way he is swinging the club as he enters one of the most exciting parts of The European Tour International Schedule with so many big events on the immediate horizon.
“Lots of positives,” smiled the Dubliner. “I was disappointed the way I played the last six, seven holes, not as well as I played the rest. But I'm still there, thereabouts, tough course, lot to play for yet.”
There is certainly all to play for as far as Lorenzo-Vera is concerned. The 23 year old from Biarritz won the Challenge Tour’s Apulia San Domenico Grand Final last season to win the Challenge Tour Rankings, and he is hoping that he can make his breakthrough on The European Tour.
“That was really good today,” said Lorenzo-Vera. “My driving is getting better and the errant shots are better. Sand wedge is all right and putter is definitely good, my best friend at the moment.
“I’m getting used to Adare Manor – for the first time of my life I'm maybe gaining some intelligence! I have been playing to the right sides of the holes and committing to every shot, because you have to play that way around this golf course.
“I can't tell you if I am ready to win on The European Tour at the moment – you can’t tell that until you have done it and I haven’t done it yet. You know, so many people play well for the first two rounds and fall away after that, so I will try to keep the same game, and we will find out if I am ready to win on Sunday.”