Smyth leads Senior Open

By Brian Keogh

Links specialist Des Smyth produced an amazing four-birdie finish to grab the halfway lead in The Senior Open at windy Muirfield.

The Drogheda ace, 54, reeled off four birdies on the trot from the 15th to card a second successive 70 and lead in the clubhouse on two under par.

Playing in the worst of the conditions for the second day in a row, Smyth's total was good enough to stay at the top until the end of the day.

Joint overnight leader Gordon J Brand posted a 73 to trail Smyth by a shot alongside Aussie Stewart Ginn (70), Eduardo Romero (71) and Tom Watson (71).

But tournament favourite Nick Faldo could only manage a three over par 74 and fell back into a share of sixth place on level par.

Smyth now has a chance of pulling off a famous Irish double if he can emulate Padraig Harrington and grab his first major in the senior ranks

Asked where his performance came from, Smyth said: "I am not sure. I battled all day and played quite well. It was a very difficult day.

"It is impossible to get round that course without making bogeys and I wasn't making any birdies until it all came on the last four holes and it was a fantastic finish."

Three over for the day after bogeys at the third, 10th and 15th, Smyth was amazed to birdie the last four holes in the worst of the weather.

He said: "I just hit a hot patch. I hit a two iron into the 16th and got it to 12 feet and then birdied the last three.

"The birdie down the last was amazing. I have always found it difficult even to make a par at that hole.

"It was much more difficult today. Even the downwind holes where hard to play. It is just trickier on the greens. To finish the way I did is just a real bonus."

Eamonn Darcy (74) and Denis O'Sullivan (77) made the cut on the nine over par limit but Paul Leonard missed out after a second round 86.