Peter Lawrie and Paul McGinley are within striking distance of leader Maarten Lafeber at the halfway stage of the Portugal Masters at the Oceanico Victoria course.
Lafeber followed his opening 64 with a 67 to lead by two shots on 13-under par from Finland’s Miko Ilonen with McGinley and Lawrie five shots off the pace on eight under.
They’re tied for 11th place with Italian Ryder Cup hero Francesco Molinari, who fired a career best 62 to move from six shots outside the eventual cutline to the business end of the leaderboard on eight-under in a matter of hours.
Lawrie plotted his way to a second successive 68 while McGinley did well to shoot a two-under par 70 as he slipped to two over through eight holes before picking up five birdies in his last 10 holes with his only mistake a bogey four at the downhill 13th.
Shane Lowry, a precarious 60th in the Race to Dubai standings from which the top 60 will qualify for November’s Dubai World Championship, signed for a second round 69 to move seven under par.
Kells’ Damien McGrane (72) and former Shandon Park star Michael Hoey (69) made the four under par cut with just one stroke to spare. But the rest of the Irish were seeking alternative weekend employment.
Despite a promising opening round, Gareth Maybin could only get to three under after 36 holes and missed the weekend by a single shot, while Darren Clarke (-1) and Simon Thornton (+2) also failed to make the cut.
Amazingly, Lawrie will have been anxiously looking at leaderboards after 13 holes of his second round. At four under with five to play he needed a solid finish to ensure employment for the weekend. Within the space of 90 minutes, the Castleknock pro reeled off birdies at the 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th and was closer to the leader than he was to missing the cut.
Lowry, looking for a good week to surpass the €500,000 mark for the season, dropped just one shot in his three-under par round of 69.
Lowry on Twitter afterwards, tweeting: “@shanelowrygolf Left a few out there but it’s moving day tomorrow so let’s hope I move in the right direction.”
Out among the earlier starters McGrane was close to the top of leaderboard seven holes into his round. Three birdies had him at eight under, but two bogeys and a double bogey spoilt his card and he was left to settle with a level par round and a tie for 37th.
Ulster star Hoey has been the model of consistency so far in the Algarve, parring 29 of his 36 holes. Four birdies and just a single blemish in round two mean he sits alongside McGrane at five under par.
Of the three who missed the cut, Maybin was certainly the most unfortunate. After starting on the tenth, he finished the back nine at six under par for the tournament, only to fall apart on the course’s outward nine and stumble home in 39 to miss the cut by just one shot.
Simon Thornton’s last gasp appearance in Vilamoura was always a bridge too far. Called up as a late, late reserve for Danny Willett while on holiday nearby, he played with borrowed clubs alongside Ryder Cup duo Miguel Angel Jimenez and Edoardo Molinari but followed an opening 72 with a 74 to miss the cut.