Weekend off for the Irish at Joburg Open
 Peter Lawrie appears lost in thought during the second round of the Joburg Open. The Dubliner has made just two cuts in 17 starts since last year's Irish Open. Picture: David Lloyd /  www.golffile.ie

Peter Lawrie appears lost in thought during the second round of the Joburg Open. The Dubliner has made just two cuts in 17 starts since last year's Irish Open. Picture: David Lloyd / www.golffile.ie

All four Irishmen in the field missed out on the weekend action as Italy's Edoardo Molinari continued his return to form by claiming a share of the halfway lead at the Joburg Open.

Scores

The cut fell at a formidable four-under par 139 for the third year in a row — it was 138 in 2011 — which was two shots too low for Damien McGrane as he followed his opening 66 on the West Course with a three over 75 on the East to finish on two under 141.

Rookie Kevin Phelan had work to do after his level par 71 on day one, but having battled his way to three under without a mistake through 13 holes, he bogeyed the 15th and the 17th on the East to miss out by three.

Waterville's David Higgins was tied for 42nd starting the day but dropped two shots in his first four holes and had 35 putts in a four over 76 on the East Course to end up well off the pace on one-over par.

Peter Lawrie's horrible run continued despite a brave effort to come back from a four over par 76 on the East Course on Thursday.

Two birdies in his first six holes gave him a glimmer of hope that he could end a run of six successive missed cuts.

But a double bogey six at the seventh was enough to send that dream up in smoke and he slumped to a three over 74 and his 15th missed cut from 17 starts since last June's Irish Open.

As for Molinari, the 32 year old Italian has been plagued by injury problems since making his Ryder Cup debut alongside brother Francesco in 2010.

He has slipped from the 14th in the world in October 2010 to 220th this week but having finished ninth in last week's Dubai Desert Classic, the former US Amateur champion impressed with a 68 left him tied at the top of the leaderboard with Scotland’s Craig Lee on 11 under par.

Lee shot 67 on the West Course, having impressed with a 65 on the East set-up on day one, as he chases a maiden European Tour title.

England’s David Horsey and home favourite George Coetzee share third on ten under.

Horsey, like the majority of the field, is chasing not only the €206,050 first prize but also one of three Open Championship places on offer for to those not already exempt and finishing in the top ten.

Coetzee has had 24 top-ten finishes on The European Tour, but is hoping to land his first victory on home soil this weekend.

"I know what to expect and tomorrow I’ll try to stay patient and make a few putts on the way home,” he said.

Seven players sit two shots from the top of a congested leaderboard with Finland’s Roope Kakko most prominent after a brilliant eight under par 64 on the tricky East Course.