Paul McGinley is looking forward to senior golf in 2017 but he showed he can still play with the youngsters when he added a four under 67 to his opening 70 to share 17th place on five under in the British Masters at the Grove.
With some half a dozen invitations lined up on the Champions Tour, plus several European Senior Tour starts to go with a few regular tour appearances, McGinley has 2017 mapped out in pencil.
And he’ll certainly be hoping he’s as competitive among the over 50s after his 137 total left him just six strokes behind Richard Bland, whose 64 gave him a one shot lead over Alex Noren and Andrew Johnston on 11 under par.
Graeme McDowell shot a second successive 68 to share 14th on six under with Shane Lowry (68 70) tied 27th on four under par.
“Over the last month, I have been able to play some golf, which I haven’t been able to do regularly for a while,’ McGinley said.
"This is only my sixth event this year on the European Tour, and I've only played six per season over the last couple of years.
"But I played in Italy and at the Dunhill last week, and even though I missed the cut, I was still getting some tournament golf under my belt. I've put more miles on the clock in terms of balls hit and playing competitive golf, and I've hit the ball really well this week.
“I still feel I can be competitive and I’ll pick out a couple of tournaments where I can be competitive.”
The Grove is a long course for me, but my ball striking has been great and I've driven it really well. There's a big onus on me to drive the ball well on such a long layout by my standards. Hitting the fairways has been key for me here.
"Obviously I'm delighted to be here playing for the weekend, and I hope to stay competitive over the last two rounds. I just want to climb that leaderboard as far as I can, and I’ll do that if I continue playing like I have the first two days.
“It was nice to have some momentum going into the weekend by finishing with a chip-in for birdie at the ninth. I was in between clubs with my second shot, I tried to hold up an eight-iron but I just caught it slightly heavy so it kind of fanned up into the wind and came up short of the green.
"But I hit a great chip shot from the front there, and it was a bonus when I saw it drop in. I would have been happy to just get it up and down for par, so it was a sweet moment to hole it.
“Me and Jimmy are still battling away, and by Sunday evening I think we'll be looking forward to getting on golf courses that are much shorter than this one!
"I'm planning to play on the Senior Tour next year, but I'll still play three or four on the European Tour. I still feel I can be competitive and I'll pick out a couple of tournaments where I can be competitive.
"But I certainly won't be playing anywhere near a full schedule. I’m only averaging five or six starts over the last four or five years, and I'll probably do less than that next year.
"I've played in the British Masters several times now, and it's fantastic to see a resurgence in the tournament. There's a new energy about it since Sky helped restore it to the schedule after a seven-year absence, and it was a huge success last year at Woburn.
"I was in America this time last year, but I watched plenty of it on television and it came across really well. It looks like being a repeat success this year, we’ve had some really big crowds and it’s a great venue being so close to London."
Michael Hoey missed the cut and now needs a top two finish in next week’s Portugal Masters to keep his card.
Paul Dunne will also be hoping for a start to stave off any last minute threats to his card should half a dozen players overtake him this week.
At 99th in the Race to Dubai, Dunne would have to be unlucky not to have done enough to keep his card on his current earnings but he will be watching the leaderboards at The Grove with interest to see how the 20 players ranked below him who made the cut can perform over the weekend.
The Greystones man looks to have done enough to keep his card but with the likes of Scott Jamieson (117th) tied fourth and Matt Ford (136th), Stephen Gallacher (144th) and Eddie Pepperell (120th) tied 17th plus anotther five strugglers inside the top 30, anything can still happen.
Good weekends for McDowell and Lowry will help him and the Ulsterman was pleased to post a second successive 68 with birdies at his last two holes.
“I really didn’t hit it as well as I hit it yesterday but those two birdies will make lunch taste a bit better,” said McDowell, who made a good par save at the 17th and then birdied the first and second before closing with two more birdies.”
Looking forward now to showing how much he has improved his game, he said: “I really feel like I have turned the corner with my game the last three or four months. A big part of the summer for me was having a baby and having my family life sort of stabilise.
“Not making the Ryder Cup team, sitting on the sofa watching pretty much every shot, that was a big motivator for me and certainly I am looking forward to two years from now. I want to be part of the team in France and try to drive myself on to the next chapter of my career.
“I really feel like my game is turning the corner and I am looking forward to a big finish to the year.”
Bland birdied four of the last five holes to take a one shot lead at the halfway stage.
The Englishman, who has six top ten finishes in 2016, carded seven birdies for the day to notch up an impressive round of 64, as home favourite Johnston and Swede Noren both posted rounds of 65 to get to ten under par.
It could have been a different story for Noren, who fired eight birdies in his first 17 holes to establish a healthy advantage at the top of the leaderboard before carding a double bogey to finish the day.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Anthony Wall joined Scotland's Scott Jamieson two shots behind the lead, with Chris Wood, Tyrrell Hatton, Bernd Wiesberger and Richard Sterne one stroke further back on eight under.
Playing his first tournament in four weeks, British Masters host Luke Donald missed the cut finishing five over par.
“I’m trying to stay aggressive and to just keep going for my shots, and I putted great. I've holed out fantastically well, not only these last two days but probably over the last three or four months. If I can keep that going, hopefully I'll be there on Sunday.”
“I sat down with my team in December last year, and we talked about what was possible this year and how it was going to be possible. And that was the main kind of factor, I wasn't probably playing aggressively enough over the weekend when I was in contention.”
“To have that extra bit of support does spur you on massively. You don't really think about it too much out there but you can certainly feed off it. Whenever you play at home, either here or at Wentworth, you've got your family there supporting you.”
“Today I'm happy about my game and I'm happy about how I played, how I putted and how I stayed mentally in the moment, it was a lot better than yesterday. It was more relaxing, more green hit, more fairway hit. So in the end I'm happy.
“I love playing here. London seems to draw big crowds and it's very nice. Andrew (Johnston) is great to the crowd. He's playing great golf but he's also the nicest guy to the crowd I've ever seen. I hope we all can learn from that. It's great.
"Unfortunately I'll be watching on the weekend and not playing, which is disappointing. The crowds have been great, the course is in fantastic condition, and the greens are just absolutely perfect."
“Obviously it's the first event I've played in a month and was definitely very rusty yesterday. My short game let me down. I didn't hit enough greens. It wasn't the golf I was hoping for but it was nice to finish with a few birdies.”
“I'll be sticking around and it looks like a great leaderboard already shaping up and I’m very proud to be a part of the British Masters and to be a host. I would have loved to have played a little better but it wasn't to be.”
“I thought I played well yesterday in the wind and managed to make a few more birdies today. The British Masters is a great event and it's so good being at home and playing with the home crowds, it's really brilliant. I have a good relationship with them and just have a good time, so it's nice. All the kids and people coming up and asking for a pictures and to sign stuff like that, it's nice and open. It’s good."
131 R Bland (Eng) 67 64,
132 A Noren (Swe) 67 65, A Johnston (Eng) 67 65,
133 T Fleetwood (Eng) 66 67, A Wall (Eng) 68 65, S Jamieson (Sco) 68 65,
134 C Wood (Eng) 68 66, R Sterne (RSA) 66 68, T Hatton (Eng) 68 66, B Wiesberger (Aut) 68 66,
135 L Westwood (Eng) 67 68, P Hanson (Swe) 70 65, M Warren (Sco) 66 69,
136 Graeme McDowell (Nir) 68 68, A Levy (Fra) 70 66, N Colsaerts (Bel) 69 67,
137 L Slattery (Eng) 67 70, S Kjeldsen (Den) 68 69, J Campillo (Esp) 71 66, M Ford (Eng) 69 68, M Siem (Ger) 69 68, Paul McGinley (Irl) 70 67, T Aiken (RSA) 71 66, S Gallacher (Sco) 70 67, M Ilonen (Fin) 66 71, E Pepperell (Eng) 72 65,
138 D Brooks (Eng) 70 68, R Fisher (Eng) 72 66, D Horsey (Eng) 67 71, P Edberg (Swe) 69 69, J Parry (Eng) 71 67, Shane Lowry (Irl) 68 70, G Stal (Fra) 71 67, G Bourdy (Fra) 68 70, M Baldwin (Eng) 70 68, R Paratore (Ita) 73 65,
139 H Porteous (RSA) 70 69, M Carlsson (Swe) 70 69, C Lee (Sco) 70 69, M Korhonen (Fin) 71 68, J Luiten (Ned) 69 70, T Jaidee (Tha) 70 69, J Walters (RSA) 71 68, M Southgate (Eng) 69 70,
140 J Morrison (Eng) 67 73, J Singh (Ind) 69 71, R Jacquelin (Fra) 73 67, J Lagergren (Swe) 75 65, M Kieffer (Ger) 70 70, M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 71 69, S Webster (Eng) 72 68, K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 70 70, P Larrazábal (Esp) 70 70, M Fitzpatrick (Eng) 70 70, R Kakko (Fin) 72 68, F Zanotti (Par) 71 69,
141 C Paisley (Eng) 70 71, M Cort (Eng) 72 69, D Lipsky (USA) 72 69, M Manassero (Ita) 73 68, V Dubuisson (Fra) 73 68,
142 F Fritsch (Ger) 72 70, F Aguilar (Chi) 72 70, C Shinkwin (Eng) 71 71, R Karlberg (Swe) 73 69, D Howell (Eng) 73 69, A Cañizares (Esp) 73 69, P Waring (Eng) 70 72, O Fisher (Eng) 70 72, A Sullivan (Eng) 72 70, R Rock (Eng) 69 73, J Hugo (RSA) 71 71, J Quesne (Fra) 70 72,
143 G Wright (Wal) 70 73, R Karlsson (Swe) 70 73, L Bjerregaard (Den) 72 71, P Meesawat (Tha) 75 68, J Carlsson (Swe) 73 70, P Lawrie (Sco) 73 70, D Fichardt (RSA) 73 70, G Havret (Fra) 72 71, R Green (Aus) 73 70, T Immelman (RSA) 70 73, S Gregory (am) (Eng) 74 69,
144 A Dodt (Aus) 74 70, N Bertasio (Ita) 77 67, B Evans (Eng) 73 71, B Rumford (Aus) 71 73, R Ramsay (Sco) 71 73, T Olesen (Den) 73 71, M Madsen (Den) 73 71,
145 A Wu (Chn) 72 73, J Olazábal (Esp) 73 72, M Jonzon (Swe) 74 71, R Dinwiddie (Eng) 72 73, T Fisher Jnr (RSA) 72 73,
146 Michael Hoey (Nir) 75 71, B Hebert (Fra) 76 70, P Peterson (USA) 71 75, B Dredge (Wal) 71 75, S Khan (Eng) 72 74, G Coetzee (RSA) 73 73,
147 J Edfors (Swe) 77 70, L Donald (Eng) 77 70, G Storm (Eng) 74 73, S Lee (Kor) 78 69,
148 T Lewis (Eng) 72 76, O Wilson (Eng) 75 73, A Quiros (Esp) 71 77, K Broberg (Swe) 77 71,
149 Y Yang (Kor) 74 75, E España (Fra) 79 70,
150 E De La Riva (Esp) 71 79,
153 R Wattel (Fra) 78 75.