France’s Grégory Bourdy claimed the outright lead as the second round of The Irish Open began at Royal Portrush.
With the tournament being held in Northern Ireland for the first time since1953 Rory McIlroy was back in the title hunt and Darren Clarke on course to make his first cut of the year - but it was two continentals who were setting the pace.
Bourdy, joint overnight leader with Indian Jeev Milkha Singh, eagled the 528 yard second hole and after eight holes was 11 under par.
One behind him was Italian Lorenzo Gagli, who after an opening 68 packed eight birdies into his first 13 holes, but then bogeyed the next.
McIlroy, course record holder with an amazing 61 when he was only 16, resumed outside the top 50 on two under, but birdied two of his first three holes and with six holes to play stood five under and joint 15th.
The World Number Two came into the event on the back of four missed cuts in five starts, but he does also have a win and three second places this season.
Clarke's 2012 has been difficult, but after a month off to rest a groin strain a home event appeared just the boost he needed.
Not that it looked that way at the start of the tournament. He was two over after eight holes before a storm suspended play yesterday, but on the resumption he turned that into a one under 71 and after 13 holes this morning was up to four under.
Joint third on eight under were Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who after a hole-in-one on the sixth yesterday had five successive birdies from the ninth, Scot Gary Orr and Finn Mikko Ilonen.
Leading Irishman Paul McGinley was on seven under. The 45 year old has finished seventh, sixth and third in the past two months - all in the space of just four tournaments - and was off to a flying start in his second round.
McGinley eagled the 478 yard tenth - probably the shortest par five he will face all year - and then birdied the 12th and 13th.
Bourdy completed an outward 31 with another birdie at the ninth from 20 feet.
On 12 under he was two clear of Gagli and four in front of Donaldson, Orr and Ilonen.
Both McIlroy and Clarke dropped a shot, however. The 23 year old missed the green on the short sixth and at four under suddenly found himself eight back, while Clarke paid for a poor drive down the seventh and on three under was on the expected cut line.