Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee fired an eagle and one birdie in a three under 69 to keep his European Tour card hopes alive in Oman.
The Derry native, 27th in the Road to Oman rankings, moved up to tied 22nd at halfway in the Challenge Tour’s season-ending NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Muscat
McGee nine shots behind Joachim B Hansen of Denmark and six shots away from the Top-3 finish he needs to win his European Tour card via the Top-15 in the money list.
Hansen retained his overnight lead thanks to five under par 67 but Road to Oman Rankings leader Ricardo Gouveia and Englishman Max Orrin – who won on this course last year – are in close pursuit.
The Dane made six birdies in the Omani sunshine as he built on his opening round of 66 to move up into fourth position in the projected Road to Oman Rankings, having started the week in 17th spot - just outside the top 15 who will win European Tour cards at the end of this week.
The Dane played on The European Tour for the last two seasons after graduating from the Challenge Tour in 2012 and is happy with his form as he hunts a maiden victory at Muscat’s Almouj Golf, The Wave.
“My swing feels very comfortable right now,” said the 25 year old. “There are a few shots going left but I just need to get the rhythm and the arms through it and I’ll be fine.
“I kept the ball in play and hit a lot of greens. I didn’t really putt as well as I did yesterday but it was still pretty good. I’m looking forward to the next few days and hopefully getting that top 15 spot, so it’s going to be fun.
“I definitely feel like I’m back at the level I was at in 2012. My game has developed a lot since that time, but, like I did in Kazakhstan in the first round, when I get the ball in play sometime the putter just holes everything.
“The two years on The European Tour gave me a lot of experience, to see how good the players are and how you have to play. You don’t have to hit the golden shot every time, just stick to your game and hole the putts.
“I just stick to my own game and don’t look at what anybody else is doing but it was good to play with Ricardo. He’s a very steady player and strikes the ball really well. I just have to try get by every day and see where we are at the end.”
Gouveia, whose stellar season has earned his caddie the right to wear a golden bib, reflective of the Portuguese star’s Number One position in the Rankings, credited his putter for his good scoring in the opening rounds.
“I played well again, hit the ball ok,” said the 24 year old. “I hit the ball better yesterday but I holed some important putts today. I’ve only made one bogey in two rounds, which is pretty good, and I just want to keep it going.
“I’m striking the ball well and I’m putting better which makes a lot of difference to my scores. This week I haven’t actually hit much better than the rest of the season but I’ve holed some important putts and that’s why I’ve scored well.
“I check the leaderboards all the time because I like to see where I’m at. There’s always some pressure, because I want to win the event, but just playing well and being confident like I am takes a bit of pressure off.
“Knowing I’ve secured my European Tour card helps a lot as well, but there’s always a bit of pressure, just not too much.”
Behind the leading pair is Max Orrin, the Englishman who took victory when the Challenge Tour visited Oman 12 months ago and who needs a good finish to climb into the top 15 this week.
The 21 year old’s round of 66 was the lowest of the day and leaves him on eight under par overall, in third place on his own, at the midway point.
“I played very solid all day today,” he said. “I don’t think I missed a single green all round and it was much the same as yesterday, just keep trying to hit good shots and keep it in the present. There’s a lot going on which I try not to think about too much, but just concentrate on playing golf.
“It’s tough to put to the back of your mind how much is at stake this week, with those 15 European Tour cards there to be won. As much as you try to ignore it all there’s reminders everywhere and people talking about it.
“I’m trying to push my way up and into the top 15, and each day I get closer to finishing there so it’s definitely something that keeps pushing me on and keeps me focused.”
Bjӧrn Åkesson is one shot further back on seven under par, with Daniel Im, James Robinson and Jeff Winther behind him in a tie for fifth place.
Dominic Foos’ tidy round of 67 has moved the German youngster into the top ten on five under par where he sits alongside Jens Dantorp, Nacho Elvira, Ryan Evans and Daan Huizing.
Scores after round 2
133 J Hansen (Den) 66 67;
134 R Gouveia (Por) 67 67;
136 M Orrin (Eng) 70 66;
137 B Åkesson (Swe) 68 69;
138 J Winther (Den) 70 68, D Im (USA) 71 67, J Robinson (Eng) 68 70;
139 J Dantorp (Swe) 69 70, R Evans (Eng) 68 71, D Huizing (Ned) 70 69, D Foos (Ger) 72 67, N Elvira (Esp) 70 69;
140 P Whiteford (Sco) 73 67, T Linard (Fra) 70 70, R McGowan (Eng) 72 68, S Henry (Sco) 69 71;
141 J Hahn (USA) 70 71, G Murray (Sco) 70 71, C Shinkwin (Eng) 69 72, R Fox (Nzl) 74 67, R Davies (Wal) 73 68;
142 M Delpodio (Ita) 70 72, Ruaidhri McGee (Irl) 73 69, B Stone (RSA) 71 71, B Virto Astudillo (Esp) 71 71;
143 S Gros (Fra) 69 74, R Coles (Eng) 74 69, H Joannes (Bel) 71 72, P Widegren (Swe) 70 73, C Hanson (Eng) 70 73, S Arnold (Aus) 72 71;
144 S Soderberg (Swe) 74 70, S Jeppesen (Swe) 70 74, T Murray (Eng) 69 75, J Senior (Eng) 74 70;
145 L Gagli (Ita) 71 74, J Fahrbring (Swe) 73 72;
146 A Björk (Swe) 73 73, A McArthur (Sco) 75 71, G Boyd (Eng) 74 72;
147 M Søgaard (Den) 72 75;
148 C Sordet (Fra) 76 72; 149 J McLeary (Sco) 78 71, S Walker (Eng) 76 73;
154 H Porteous (RSA) 76 78.