A happy reunion with an old putter helped Simon Thornton fire his lowest tour round for nearly a year and boost his chances of retaining his European Tour card.
The Royal County Down man, 35, eagled the par-five 18th to card a six under 64 in the second round of the KLM Open at Hilversumsche and go into the weekend just six shots behind leader Graeme Storm on five under par.
A lowly 158th in the Race to Dubai standings, more than €72,000 outside the top 115 who will retain their playing rights for 2013, Bradford-born Thornton can move out of the ‘relegation zone’ with a top five finish in the Netherlands.
And while he insists that he has being doing nothing differently to last year, when he earned his card through the Challenge Tour rankings thanks to a closing 64 in the Grand Final, his putting has certainly let him down in 2012.
The statistics say he’s been taking a putt more per round this year, leading to just seven pay days from 14 events.
But he found his range with the blade on Friday, taking just 27 putts as he carded an eagle, five birdies and just one bogey in the joint lowest round of the day with Scott Jamieson.
“Like yesterday I played lovely from tee to green but the difference was the ball going into the hole,” Thornton said. “I just seemed to roll it better and had a bit of confidence, holed a couple of putts early on.
“I holed a great putt for par early on and then missed a four or five footer for par so it could have been a bit better.”
Out in 33 thanks to birdies at the second, sixth and eighth against a solitary bogey at the ninth, Thornton credited a change of putter for his success on the greens.
“The putter was in the bag for a couple of years but it came out when I wanted a change and went back in this morning,” he said. “Took it out of the locker, dusted it off and it seemed to work.”
Further birdies at the 10th and 12th sent him soaring up the leaderboard before he finished the day tied for seventh thanks to a sweet eagle at the 18th.
“It was a nice wee treat to eagle the last,” he said. “I had a perfect yardage for my rescue, I hit it lovely and managed to hole the putt which was great.”
At a loss to explain why he’s failed to deliver consistently this year, he told European Tour Radio’s Nick Dye: “I’ve been somewhere else playing a different game to everybody else, or it feels like it sometimes.
“I’ve just been doing what I’ve been doing but you just got to keep trusting in yourself and hope your form comes back.
“Last year I played lovely even though I only played half a dozen events. This year my form seemed to dip. Who knows, who can explain what causes it.
“You always try to put your finger on it but you don’t really know. You don’t really know what sparks something off when you play well so you just have to take it one shot at a time.
“You don’t do anything different when you play badly as when you play well. People think there is always something that has made you play badly.
“You just have to look on the bright side. I tend to be pretty horizontal and laid back and see how it goes.”
Damien McGrane added a 67 to his opening 70 to share 21st on three under though he might feel it could have been better after covering his opening nine holes in four under.
Peter Lawrie is a shot further back after a second successive 69 with Ulstermen Darren Clarke (68) and Gareth Maybin (71) making the cut on the level par limit.
Struggling with his ironplay, Shane Lowry improved with a 68 but still missed out by two shots on two over with Ryder Cup vice-captain Paul McGinley three shots outside the cut mark despite a 69.
Leader Storm followed his stunning opening round of 63 with a flawless 66 to lead by three strokes on 11 under par from Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño (65), Jamieson (64) and Ryder Cup star Peter Hanson (66).
Storm, who was 41st in last week’s Omega European Masters and is 114th on The Race to Dubai, recorded birdies at the third, 11th, 15th and 18th.
“It makes a change to have all red on my card,” he said. “Hopefully I used all the bogeys up last week in Crans and long may it continue.
“I wasn’t expecting to shoot four under. I just managed to go round and keep the bogeys off the card as I did yesterday and made a few birdies.
“It’s all about momentum and for two days it has gone my way.”
Aside from Hanson in joint second place, Europe’s two other Ryder Cup players remain in contention.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts carded a flawless 65 to move to five under par, six shots off the lead, while former World Number One Martin Kaymer, carded a 71 today to sit a further shot back on four under par, the same score as defending champion Simon Dyson, who went round in 66.