Shane Lowry, Michael Hoey and Darren Clarke are in contention at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship but the most significant round of the day from an Irish standpoint came from the struggling Padraig Harrington.
An opening four over 76 at Carnoustie left the world No 95 near the the back of the field. But Ireland’s three-time major winner produced a six under 66 at Kingsbarns just when he needed it yesterday to give himself an fighting chance of making Saturday’s cut for the top 60 and ties.
With perfect conditions leading to a glut of low scoring - American Peter Uihlein came within inches of posting the first 59 in European Tour history at the same venue - Harrington will probably feel aggrieved that he did not go even lower.
After missing just one fairway and one green, he had 31 putts in a seven-birdie effort but is still four shots outside the projected cut mark on two under par.
He will almost certainly need another 66 or 67 at St Andrews todat to avoid a seventh missed cut from his last nine starts and keep alive his hopes of making the top 60 in the Race to Dubai who will contest the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
England’s Tom Lewis shot a seven under 65 at the Old Course to lead by from Joost Luiten (63/Kingsbarns) on 15 under par while Uihlein ended the day in a six-way tie for third after his 25 foot eagle putt on his last hole at Kingsbarns stayed above ground.
“It was cool to have that chance,” said Uihlein of his putt for a 59. “It was a good day. Me and my caddie, Sam, we were talking about it, and my second shot, we were like, you know, let’s not even try to think about it. I knew I had to make eagle and gave it a go, hit a good putt.
“I actually thought it would come back to the right at the end but kept going left. All in all it was a good day and I am very pleased. It was just one of those good days and everything just seemed to go in for me.”
Hoey shot a 66 at Kingsbarns to share 13th place on 10 under with Lowry, who shot a bogey free 66 at St Andrews.
“Well that’s the best score I’ve ever shot the day after Arthur’s day,” Lowry tweeted.
He had every reason to be pleased.
“I’ve played St Andrews quite a lot and I’ve never seen a day like today here,” Lowry said. “It’s absolutely flat calm and scoring was always going to be quite good.
“I got off to not a great start - a few poor irons shots early on - I started on 10 but holed a few clutch putts early on. I knew there would be a score on the front nine and I managed to do that. I still played the back nine in two under but played the front nine in four under.
“It was nice, it puts me in a nice position going into tomorrow. I am happy enough at 10 under going into the weekend and 19 under in the team with Gerry McManus. I am looking forward to it, hopefully I can shoot a decent score at Carnoustie tomorrow.”
Hoey, winner of Dunhill title two years ago, is looking for his second win of the season following his victory in the Russian Open (his only top 20 this year), was pleased iwth his 66.
“I made five birdies in a row (at Carnoustie) yesterday which is the most I’ve ever made in a row was four previously and that really got me going, because I was one-over at Carnoustie and I thought I needed to turn it around. Hit a few good wedge shots and holed a couple of putts, and that really — it was looking borderline yesterday and from then I kicked on and holed a few putts and hit the ball pretty good.”
Hoey’s caddie reckoned it was the first time he had ever kept a five off his card but as he heads to St Andrews today, the Belfast man is hoping to keep it going.
Refelcting on his win there two years ago, he said ” I love the golf courses; Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, doesn’t get any better and we’ve been lucky with the weather. Playing partners are great fun. Just trying to feed off the positivity.”
As for his inconsistency, he said: “My stats are quite weird but I’m up-and-down, but I will get more consistency eventually. I’ve got a good coach now, and a couple good coaches here helping me
stay on track. That’s the plan.
Clarke is tied for 20th on 10 under after a 66 at Kingsbarns with Gareth Maybin up to 46th on seven under afte a 65 at St Andrews.
Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley is six under after his 68 at Kingsbarns but the rest of the Irish are outside the cut mark.
Simon Thornton’s 70 at St Andrews left him a shot outside the projected six under par mark with Damien McGrane on four under, also after a 65 at St Andrews.
Harrington is tied for 108th with Peter Lawrie, who shot a 69 at Kingsbarns.
Lawrie is 109th in the Race to Dubai and struggling to avoid his 12th missed cut of teh season and his fifth in a row.
Waterville’s David Higgins, who is 111th in the money list with the top 110 keeping their cards, is tied for 125th on one-under after his 71 at St Andrews.