Ireland’s Simon Thornton established a one shot lead at the halfway stage of the Madeira Islands Open after a stunning second round of 66 at Porto Santo Golfe.
The 33 year old built on an encouraging return to form at last week’s Iberdrola Open, where he finished in a tie for 16th place, by carding an eagle on the par five third en route to an outward 34.
But he did most of his good work on the back nine, with four unanswered birdies giving him a six under par round and moving him to seven under par for the €700,000 tournament.
That gave him a one shot lead over France’s François Delamontagne, with overnight leader Chris Gane and his English compatriot Jamie Elson tied for third place on five under par.
“I played well today, and I also drove and putted very well in even worse conditions yesterday,” said Thornton, who was third at the halfway stage of this event last year before fading over the weekend. “I just hit lots of fairways and my putter’s hot at the moment, so overall it was a good round today.
“I only had one really long putt on the 15th hole. I putted on the third for eagle off the green and holed that putt, but apart from that, most of them were close. At the moment they’re going in, so hopefully it’ll last over the weekend as well.
“I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing, keep hitting the fairways. It’s quite a tricky course, so you’ve just got to keep putting it in the right places.
“Last week the wind was very fiery over the weekend. Hopefully it won’t be like this here, but the conditions are similar, which probably suits my game. I don’t carry it very far off the tee but the ball runs quite a long way on the fairways, so this course suits my game.”
Delamontagne started on the back nine and at one stage was four under par for the day – thanks in part to a chip-in at 18 – but he dropped shots at the fourth and seventh as he signed for a 70.
“Maybe I missed a few shots today but my putting was just amazing, I think I took 20 putts – that’s my record by maybe four or five putts. It’s much easier when you’re putting like this,” said the 32 year old, who is still looking for a first European Tour title.
“But the rest was okay. My back nine was not very easy, it was very, very tough. A few holes you had to really concentrate, and it’s very easy to make bogey. Maybe not double, but if your shot is not perfect, you’re left with a tough chip or tough putt, so there’s a lot of opportunity for birdies on the back nine. But the front nine is very tough.”
Elson signed off in style with a birdie-birdie finish as he posted a 68.
“I’m pretty happy with that,” he said. “I birdied the ninth yesterday too, even though it’s quite a tough hole with the wind coming across you. But I’ve hit two great shots to eight feet and rolled in the putt both times, so I’m very pleased.”
Gane was level par for the day, but still pleased with his work over the first two days.
“I’m happy with that,” he said. “I didn’t play as well as I did yesterday, but I scrambled well. You need a bit of luck out there, and maybe I didn’t get it today. But hopefully that changes over the weekend.”
Denmark’s Andreas Hartø, Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth and Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey – whose only previous European Tour victory came on Portuguese soil – are tied for fifth on four under.