Simon Thornton. Photo Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.ieSimon Thornton shot a second successive 66 to lead the 101st Irish PGA Championship bu three shots from Des Smyth at Seapoint.

As 56 players made the cut on five-over-149, Thornton went bogey free for the second day in a row, matching the course record again with a six birdie effort. Scores

“After the ninth hole today I set myself a target of five under but I bettered that by a shot,” he told the PGA website. “No dropped shots in 36 holes isn’t  bad and I have bettered my eleven-under for two rounds at City of Derry.

“I won’t be forcing it in the last two rounds - just keeping the golf simple. It won’t be too difficult to play two rounds here, on this course, in the one day.”

Smyth, 58, still has high hopes of a seventh Irish PGA title that would see him become the first man to win it in five successive decades.

“It would be fantastic if I could keep that record going,” he said after adding a 68 to his opening 67.

He got down from 20 feet at the first and from 15 feet at the sixth for birdies before his only lapse of the day, a three stab for bogey at the short ninth.

Smyth put in a fabulous finish of a hat-trick of birdies as he glued his second approach to the flag at 16, rolled in a 12-footer for a two at 17 and holed from 15 feet for birdie four at the last, and explained that a little grip change had transformed his putting.

“I played a bit defensively in the middle of the round as the driving was not so good but the putting is very good. It certainly would be great if I was to win this championship for a seventh time in five decades.”

Seamus McMonagle matched Thornton’s 66 to lie just four shots of the pace in third place in his first event as a fully qualified professional.