Frustrating as it must be for Irish golf fans to watch Padraig Harrington head for his seventh missed cut of the season, Michael Hoey and Shane Lowry gave them plenty to cheer in the second round of the weather-delayed Barclays Singapore Open.
A lightning storm forced the suspension of play for two hours and 45 minutes, which means that 69 players (including Harrington, Peter Lawrie, Paul Cutler and Gareth Maybin) must return on Saturday morning to complete their second rounds.
England’s James Morrison added a 68 on the Serapong Course to his opening 62 on the Tanjong to grab a two-stroke clubhouse lead over the Filipino Juvic Pagunsan, who produced an impressive 66 also at the Serapong.
But while Harrington was four shots outside the projected cut mark at one-over par with five to play on the Serapong - a lacklustre, three over par for his second round - Hoey was in contention for the third victory of a memorable season.
A winner of the Madeira Islands Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links already this year, the 32-year old made a great up-and-down par at the 18th on the Tanjong to card a five-under 66 and trail Morrison by just three shots on nine under.
While he hit just five fairways, Hoey’s short game was superb as he recorded seven birdies with his only major mistake a double bogey six at the seventh.
“I didn’t hit the ball great in the long game department today but the short game has been really good,” Hoey said. “But I will definitely need to straighten things up off the tee, especially on the Serapong Course because it is very tough. I shot four under there yesterday but hit it in the water twice and didn’t hit enough fairways.
“My short game has been really good. It has stayed with me since I won the Dunhill Links but I need to sort out the long game because it was the same story last week. I am working hard with [my coach] Jamie Gough and hopefully I can turn it round over the weekend.”
Hoey agreed that it is a sign of his development as a player than he still managed to shoot a great score despite not hitting the ball well off the tee.
“It’s just the nature of professional golf. That’s the key to it: to score well when you are not hitting it that well and give yourself a chance to score well over the weekend and get into contention.
“If I look back to last year my shot game would have been nowhere near what it was today and I would have probably missed the cut by a shot.
“I’m grinding well and mentally in a very good place and that is really helping, just as it did at the Dunhill. I’m looking forward to the weekend now – this is a great event and the Serapong course is really a great test.”
Lowry will be disappointed only to have shot a one under par 70 on the longer Serapong course having reached three under par after 11 holes.
But despite late bogeys at the 16th and 17th, the 24-year old Clara man is still not out of the picture on five under par.
Lowry’s stablemate Graeme McDowell was suffering from stomach cramps and he was grateful that the three-hour weather delay came after nine holes, giving him time to regroup and scramble his way to a level par 71 on the Tanjong.
“Not feeling great to be honest,” said McDowell, who birdied the 15th and 16th to get to three under par. “Obviously my caddie, Ken (Comboy), was unwell for the last couple of days and I must have picked something up. I felt very lethargic this morning and played the front nine like a blind man.
“Then on our way to the tenth tee the hooter went for the storm and that has probably saved me and kept me in this golf tournament because it enabled me to get back to the clubhouse, get some fluids in me and get some rest.
“I picked up a bit and played a bit better when we went back out but I still had stomach cramps on the back nine and am still not great. Hopefully it’ll pass and we can get back down to business on the Serapong tomorrow.”
The rest of the Irish were on the wrong side of the cut line though Lawrie was on two under par with 10 holes to play after following a double bogey seven at the fourth on the Serapong with a birdie at the sixth.
Rookie Paul Cutler was staging a remarkable comeback on the Tanjong after his opening 75, firing an eagle, four birdies and just one bogey as he raced through the turn in five under 31 to get back to one under par.
Asian Tour member Niall Turner shot a 70 in the same track to finish on three over while Damien McGrane and Gareth Maybin look certain to slip further into trouble as they bid to hold on to their tour cards.
McGrane, 108th in the race to remain inside the all-important top 115 with just two events to go, missed the cut as he shot a 74 on the Serapong to finish on five over.
As for 115th ranked Maybin, the Ballyclare man needs a miraculous back nine on the tougher of the two courses after going to the turn in 41 to slip to three over when played was suspended.
Paul McGinley finished on three over after a 74 on the Serapong, where Harrington was again struggling to come to grips with the greens.
Two under starting the day, the 40 year old Dubliner bogeyed the par-five seventh and then three-putted the ninth to turn in 38 before dropping another shot at the 12th.
The Dubliner will have two more chances to move from 74th into the top-60 who qualify for the Dubai World Championship as he defends the Iskandar Johor Open next week and the travels to Hong Kong for the final, regular event of the year.