David Higgins slipped five shots behind leader Jbe Kruger as Kevin Phelan and Peter Lawrie missed the cut in the Hong Kong Open.
The Waterville veteran made six bogeys in his first 14 holes and needed birdies at the 15th and 18th to salvage a four over 74 that left him tied for 27th on two under. Leaderboard
But as Kruger scorched him in just 30 shots to shoot 66 and grab a one-stroke lead on seven under, Phelan followed his opening 70 with a two over 72 to miss the cut by a stroke.
The Waterford rookie dropped four shots in five holes on his front nine to go out in 40 and while he made just one bogey coming home - at the fifth - against birdies at the third, fourth and seventh, he could not birdie either of his last two holes.
It was his first missed cut as a professional for the world No 1010 following succeses in the KLM Open in September and last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
Peter Lawrie also brought 2013 to an end with another missed cut - his 16th missed cut from 27 starts in the calendar year - as he added a level par 70 to the 77 that proved to be his downfall.
As the world mourned the loss of Nelson Mandela, it was fitting that a South African should lead and Kruger’s 66 was enough to ensure he held a one shot advantage over Welshman Stuart Manley (67) on seven under par.
There was little sign of what was to come when the 27-year old turned in a two over par 36, but six birdies in seven holes from the 11th propelled Kruger to the top of the leaderboard.
“Our country lost a real-life hero,” former Avantha Masters winner Kruger said of Mandela passing on Thursday. “I played well, I probably swung it the best I’ve swung it in a long time.
“I’m excited and I’m playing better for a change. It’s fun to play relaxed golf for a change and see what unfolds.”
Germany’s Alex Cejka, India’s Shiv Kapur and Australian Wade Ormsby are tied for third on five under, with defending champion Miguel Angel Jiménez just outside the top ten.
The Spaniard Jimenez can join Hsieh Yung-yo of Taiwan as a four-time winner of the event after previous wins in 2005, 2008 and 2012, the latter when he became the oldest winner in European Tour history aged 48 years and 318 days.