Tom Lewis (Getty Images)
England’s Tom Lewis banished his Friday blues to hold the halfway lead at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship as American Peter Uihlein came agonisingly close to the first ever 59 on The European Tour.
Former amateur star Lewis has carded a number of fine opening rounds this season, but a series of disappointing follow-up efforts have left him 155th on The Race to Dubai with only three weeks left to climb into the top 110 who keep their European Tour cards for next season.
Lewis added a 65 at St Andrews to his opening 64 at Kingsbarns to lie 15 under, one shot ahead of Dutchman Joost Luiten with Uihlein sharing third with English quartet Tommy Fleetwood, Mark Foster, Oliver Wilson and Richard McEvoy and South African Hennie Otto.
"Seven under is a good score at St Andrews but there was no wind today so I think you would be disappointed if you did not shoot better than five under," said Lewis, who won the Portugal Masters in his third event as a professional in 2011.
"I feel like I am home again. Links golf suits me, I won the St Andrews Links Trophy here in 2011 and it's great to come back. I knew I had good form coming in but Friday has been my enemy this year so it's good to get it out of the way."
Uihlein narrowly missed a long eagle putt on the par five ninth at Kingsbarns, his final hole, and had to settle for a course record-equalling round of 60 to lie two shots off the lead.
Last year, South African Branden Grace also shot 60 on the same course - one of three used for the pro-am event - and went on to lift the title, his fourth of the season.
Uihlein, who won his maiden title in Madeira in May, started on the back nine at Kingsbarns and followed a birdie on the 11th with an eagle on the 12th, before picking up birdies at the 17th and 18th to reach the turn in 31.
At that stage a 59 did not look on the cards, but the 24 year old birdied the second, carded his second eagle of the day on the third and then birdied three of his next four holes.
A birdie chance went begging from 20 feet on the eighth to leave the former World Number One amateur needing to eagle the ninth to create history, but his long-range effort slid just past the hole.
"I knew I needed to make an eagle and I thought I hit a good putt," said Uihlein, who recorded the 17th round of 60 on The European Tour; Jim Furyk shot the sixth 59 on the US PGA Tour in the BMW Championship earlier this month. "I thought it would come back to the right but it kept going left.
“Today started off with me hitting it close and not making anything and then I started holing it from everywhere. It was just one of those days that went for me.
"When I made that birdie on the 17th to go 11 under that was the first time 59 crossed my mind. I was in the zone out there and it was cool. I am definitely not as calm underneath (as it looked) but I just tried to stay with my routines and keep the same swing thought.
"I put a lot of work in during the off-season and even on my off weeks I'm still practising and grinding so it's nice to see the results so quickly."
Playing partner Ernie Els shot a 65 to finish ten under - "I feel like I shot 90," he joked - but on another day of perfect scoring conditions that was still five shots off the lead.
Luiten has won twice already this season in the Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity in Austria and the KLM Open on home soil in Zandvoort, but McEvoy is 171st on The Race to Dubai and battling to avoid a second successive visit to Qualifying School.
"In a way that kind of helps, because I need to keep pushing," said McEvoy, a member of the victorious Walker Cup team in 2001 that also featured Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Marc Warren and Michael Hoey, after his 67 at Carnoustie.
"I can't sit back and think that I can maybe finish top 20 and that will can keep my card, because it won't. I need to keep pushing and I need to keep making birdies. I need to keep playing the aggressive golf I've done the first two days and I think that helps."
Rookie Chris Paisley is five off the lead on ten under after a 62 at Kingsbarns. "Hey Peter Uihlein thanks for 1 upping me!" Paisley wrote on Twitter.