Waterville’s David Higgins and Glasson’s Colm Moriarty made brilliant starts in their bids to qualify for next month’s Open Championship at St Andrews.
The top three finishers after 36 holes at each of the four Local Final Qualifying venues will earn their places in the third major of the season.
A qualifier for Carnoustie three years ago, Higgins shares top spot with Scotland’s Lloyd Saltman after a four-under par 66 at Scotscraig with Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffee tied for 22nd after a 72.
Challenge Tour regular Moriarty carded an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys in a five under par 67 at Kingsbarns to trail Scottish amateur James Byrne by three shots in second place heading into this afternoon’s final round.
Banchory man Byrne fired an eight under 64 featuring an eagle, seven birdies and just one bogey to top the leaderboard from Moriarty with Lewis Parker a shot further back on four under.
New Zealander Michael Campbell, the 2005 US Open champion, is six shots outside the qualifying places after a level par 72 with Slade Valley’s John Dignam tied 42nd after a 75 and Limerick’s Cian McNamara tied 50th after a 76.
Zane Scotland shot a six under 66 at Fairmont St Andrews to lead the field by two shots with Royal Dublin’s Patrick Devine tied 35th after a 74 and Limerick’s Tim Rice tied 48th after a disappointing 76.
England’s Phil Archer leads with a five under 66 at Ladybank where Killarney’s Danny Sugrue opened with a level par 71.
If Higgins and Moriarty qualify, Ireland will have seven representatives at the Home of Golf. Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell were exempt while Shane Lowry and Gareth Maybin came through International Final Qualifying at Sunningdale.