By Brian Keogh
Colin Montgomerie turned back the clock at The K Club with a sensational six-under par 64.
And the eight-time Order of Merit ace is feeling so good about the upsurge in his game that he believes he can do a Des Smyth and become a golden oldie winner.
Tied for second with Niclas Fasth on seven under par, Monty is just one stroke behind little-known Swede Pelle Edberg, who grabbed the lead with a super 65.
And while he has just turned 44, Montgomerie believes his swing is good enough to allow him to add the European Open to his three Irish Open titles.
Without a win since December 2005, Monty is determined that his next victory won't be his last.
Reflecting on that possibility, he said: "Wins become more significant, of course they do, because there will be a time where it will be my last win, sometime.
"And I do hope it hasn't happened. I would like to emulate Des Smyth and win in my late 40s. I'm still in my early 40s.
"I'd like to still be playing at that level in four years' time. But I jut look forward to sustaining a position tomorrow evening. That's the key for me right now."
Smyth became the tour's oldest winner in 2001 when he took the Madeira Island Open at 48 years and 34 days.
And while Montgomerie's putting has held him back in recent years, he feels his swing is once again as good as it was in 1999, when he won six times around the world.
A move back to the belly putter this week also worked wonders on the pristine Smurfit Course greens as he single putted eight times and took just 29 putts in a seven birdie round.
He added: "The last time I played this well must have been 1999, when I won six times out here. I'm swinging the club well. I'm hitting the fairways and hitting the greens in regulation and giving myself a number of opportunities and some are going in.
"This is the way I used to play. The French Open last week, finishing third and in contention again this week and hopefully the next couple as well.
"This is what I used to do in the mid-90s, when I used to come to an event and finish third, or fourth or win and go home and not really realise what I had done.
"That's what I was feeling for those seven year that I was No 1 out here and it's nice to have that feeling return."
Montgomerie's three-putt came at the second but he made amends after that with birdies at the third, fourth, seventh and eighth.
Further birdies at the 10th, 12th and 18th rounded off a brilliant day but the Scot also has great chances at the 14th, 15th and 16th.
A comment by TV pundit Mark Roe, promoted Montgomerie to leave the short putter at home and go back to the belly putter this week.
But opting for two putters, just as Phil Mickelson sometimes uses two drivers, is not an option for the Scot.
He said: "I still prefer the short putter on longer putts but unfortunately I can't use two. Well I can, but I'd be embarrassed using two."
South African David Frost, 47, hit a 66 and Simon Khan a 67 to leave them just two off the pace on six under.
Jjust three Irishmen made the cut with Graeme McDowell (70) and Padraig Harrington (68) tied for 26th on one-under par and David Higgins squeaking in on the one over par limit after a brilliant, battling 68.
McDowell said: "I drove the ball terribly the first nine holes today and you can't play this course from the rough.
"But my putting was better today, so I was pretty happy with that and it was nice to hang in and finish well.
"I hit my second shot in the water on the 10th and got it up and down for par. So that was a turning point.
"After that I gave myself some chances and made a few nice putts. Generally I am a little more pleased with my last nine holes.
"I am seven shots back right now but I feel like I have a low one in me and I can get back in this.
"I haven't driven the ball as well as I'd like to and I haven't putted as well as I'd like and I am still not too far out of touch."
Montgomerie often spies chief rival Fasth as he speeds past his home on his motorbiketo the Wisley Golf Club, where they are both members.
Monty said: "I see him quite a bit driving down on his motorbike. You won't ever see me on that.
"He's obviously playing well. He won the BMW International, took a week off and now he's up there again. I'm looking forward to competing against him.
"I don't know the other Swede leading. I don't know him at all"
Headband wearing leader Edberg, 28, won the biggest cheque of his career in France last week when he pocketed €48,800 for a share of 19th place.
And his headgear is unlikely to attract Montgomerie, or any other of the English speaking players on tour.
Asked if he gets comments from other players, Edberg said: "I don't want to wear a cap like everyone else does. I want to be a bit different. The English guys give me a hard time sometimes. But that's fine.
"The say it looks like s**t. But I don't mind. I don't mind."