Damien McGrane opened up with all guns blazing as he carded an impressive eight under par 64 to set the pace with English rookie Luke Goddard in the Estoril Open de Portugal at Penha Longa.

The odd couple leaders took full advantage of the calm afternoon conditions to card eight birdies without dropping a shot.

It left them a shot clear of Welshman Stuart Manley and Norway’s Eirik Tage Johansen but it was another day to forget for Darren Clarke as he signed for a three-over 75 that leaves him struggling to make the cut .

McGrane turned in three under, reeled off a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th and then grabbed two more birdies at the 15th and 16th to equal the course record.

“I played solid from start to finish,” said McGrane. “I never really looked like making a bogey all day, and all the time you’re not dropping shots and looking like making birdies, it adds up to a good day’s work.

“It’s all about hitting fairways and greens out there, and giving yourself opportunities, which is what I did. The greens are fairly soft which always makes life easier, and if you manage to roll the ball well on the greens, then you can make a few putts.”

Gary Murphy battled back well from a wobbly patch in mid round to keep alive his hopes of stopping his nightmare run of missed cut.

Two under par through four holes after birdies at the 10th and 13th, he bogeyed the short 15th and then double bogeyed the par five 18th to turn in 37.

He could have been forgiven for losing heart but instead he battled hard and picked up two birdies coming home to sign for a 71 that left him just inside the cut mark.

Simon Thornton had 17 pars and a bogey in a 73 while Clarke’s short game let him down badly once again as he took 34 putts and scrambled for par just 28 percent of the time.

A double bogey six at the first was not the start he was looking for and he was soon three over after three.

He clawed his way back to level par with birdies at the sixth, 11th and 12th but then bogeyed the next four holes before following a par at the 17th with a birdie four at the last.