France's Grégory Bourdy gave the chasing pack – Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke included – a boost when he failed to build on a brilliant start to his Irish Open second round at Royal Portrush yesterday.
Joint overnight lead with Indian Jeev Milkha Singh, Bourdy eagled the long second and after 10 holes had reached 13 under par – three clear of the field.
But then came bogeys at the 11th and 14th, both par threes, and the 30-year-old's advantage was back down to one.
The Italian Lorenzo Gagli was in second place on 10 under after a 66 and Welshman Jamie Donaldson just one further back following a 67 that contained five successive birdies.
McIlroy and Clarke both shot 69 to advance to five under and four under respectively.
Just to make the cut was important for Clarke – he has not managed that all season– but after closing with a 20-foot birdie putt he insisted there was no sense of relief because his sights are set higher than that.
His Open defence is less than three weeks away and after a month out resting a groin strain he said: "It's important to have more competitive rounds under my belt – I'm just not tournament sharp.
"I started nicely today, but a bogey took the wind out of my sails and I couldn't give myself many chances after that.
"Conditions are getting harder and that's a good thing. Give these guys soft conditions and not that strong a wind and they will score low.
"But I've been surprised just how low it's been so far."
McIlroy said: "The last two days have probably been the best ball-striking rounds I've had for a while.
"I didn't do much wrong and hopefully I can have a good weekend. I need something around 64 or 65 to get myself into contention, but I've shot low scores here before."
- More about: