Peter Lawrie and Shane Lowry kept surprise leader Scott Jamieson in their sights as they made positive starts in the Spanish Open at Real Club de Golf El Prat near Barcelona.
Steady Lawrie, seeking just his second tour victory following his maiden win in this event in 2008, recovered from a bogey six at his opening hole and putted well from short range to fire five birdies in a four under 68 that left him two off the lead in a share of sixth.
Lowry finished like a train after a slow start, rattling off five birdies in his final six holes for a three under 69.
“I gave myself loads of chances and holed out well from three, four, five feet,” Lawrie said. “A 68 was a fair reflection of how I played. I was asked in the pro am what would be the winning score and I said 16 under. Four 68s and you won’t be very far away.”
Second in the Volvo China Open two weeks ago, where he shot three 68s and a second round 64 to finish second, Lawrie said: “If I could throw in a 64 and two more 68s I would be a very happy man. I am playing decently and with a little bit of confidence, so I have got to just keep plugging away.”
Gaining in confidence following his 13th place finish in Korea last week, Lowry left it late to produce some of his old fireworks as he posted a 69 that was good enough for a share of 10th behind Challenge Tour graduate Jamieson.
Bogeys at the eighth and ninth left Lowry with work to do but he put in a fast finish, sandwiching a lone par at the 15th between birdies at the 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 18th.
Gareth Maybin struggled with his irons as he shot a one over 73 that left him a shot outside the projected cut mark in 71st.
But barring a sensational recovery today, Damien McGrane can start making plans for the weekend after a 10 over 82 - equalling his worst round in a European Tour event and posting his highest score on tour since he shot 80 in the final round of the 2004 Scottish Open.
Tied for last place in the 156-man field, McGrane’s round equalled second round 82 he shot as a club professional in the 1996 Smurfit European Open at the K Club. But in terms of where he is in his career, this easily ranks as the worst ever as he went out in 39 and came home in 43.
The 40 year old from Kells hit just six of 14 fairways, missed 11 greens and took 33 putts on a day to forget. Normally a brilliant scrambler around the greens, his putter was so cold that he got up and down just three times out of 11 as he mixed one birdie with five bogeys and three doubles.