As Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen continued where he left off in The Open with another impressive performance, Waterville’s David Higgins kept his dream of a European Tour return alive at the weather-affected Lyoness Open in Austria.
The 39-year old has not held a tour card since 2007 but after finishing 10th in the BMW PGA at Wentworth in May, he’s just one good week away from barging his way into the top 115 in the Race to Dubai standings who will earn full playing rights next season.
Ranked 148th, a maiden European Tour victory would solve all Higgins’ problems at a stroke and earn him a precious winner’s exemption. And while he’s six strokes behind Olesen on six under after a second round 71, he’s well in the hunt and provisionally tied for seventh place at Diamond Country Club.
Olesen, who finished the top 10 at Royal Lytham and St Annes, established a three shot clubhouse lead midway through the second round.
Before afternoon thunderstorms and heavy rain caused play to be abandoned for the day, Olesen continued the fine form he had shown during last week’s Open Championship, where he finished in ninth place to record his sixth top ten of the season.
The 22 year old, whose first European Tour title came at the Sicilian Open in April, resumed his first round one shot behind Pablo Larrazábal, but swiftly joined the Spaniard at the top of the leaderboard on eight under par courtesy of a birdie at the 17th hole.
After a quick turnaround, Olesen signed for a second round of 68 to move to 12 under par and establish a three-shot lead over Frenchman Thomas Levet.
“There was quite a strong wind out there at times,” said Olesen. “I struggled a bit round the turn and hit a few bad drives, but I managed to hit some good shots coming home, so I’m happy to get in on 12 under par. It’s been a long day, but a very good one.
“I’ve been playing well for the past few months really, so I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t win again. I’m just looking forward to the next two days now, hopefully I can get the job done.”
Shane Lowry was one under par through nine holes of his second round and tied for 22nd on two under with Damien McGrane a shot inside the projected cut mark on level par after playing his first five holes in one over.
Simon Thornton was two over for the day through 11 holes and three over in total which left him needing a hot finish to his second round to survive the halfway cut.
British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar, who is in no hurry to turn professional, was back on five over after just eight holes of his second round.
Staring on the back nine, the Rathmore man birdied the par-five 10th and 13th but double bogeyed the short 11th and bogeyed the 14th and 17th to severly dent his chances of making his first cut in a professional event.
Sponsors invitees Mark Murphy and Chris Devlin had weeks to forget in Austria and will miss today’s halfway cut.
Murphy had five birdies but putted poorly as he added a 74 to his opening 76 to finish on six over while Devlin was always fighting a losing battle after his clubs went missing in transit from the US and didn’t turn up until the eve of the tournament.
After opening with an 80, the Ballymena native went down fighting with three birdies in his last four holes for a 73 and made his frustration clear on Twitter.
“Had a disaster this week,” he tweeted. “The most important part of a pro golfer’s game is preparation and I had none this week. So disappointed!!”
He added: “Getting a start is a great opportunity, one my head wanted to turn down but heart wouldn’t let me. Jet lag and lost clubs suck!!”