Stablemate Ross Fisher leads the way but Shane Lowry feels refreshed and ready for the weekend and the rest of the season after a second round left him tied 20th in the Alfred Dunhill Links championship.
Having failed to qualify for the Ryder Cup team, Lowry put his clubs away for five weeks and after a brief honeymoon and a much-needed recharge of his batteries, he kept his short game sharp ahead of a crucial end to the season.
Apart from the US Open, where he was overtaken on the final day by Dustin Johnson, it’s been a year of harsh lessons and hard yards for Lowry, whose first full season on the PGA Tour proved hugely exacting.
Having started the year ranked 21st in the world and finished tied second in a major, it almost beggars belief that the 29 year old Offaly man finds himself ranked 41st in the world this week.
He’ll be older and wiser next season but he’s still keen to finish 2016 on a high and improve his Race to Dubai position as he faces into his last six events.
“After Denmark, I just said, put the clubs away for five weeks,” said Lowry, who went out in four under 32 at Kingsbarns before finishing with nine straight pars.
"I was half-thinking of playing Italy or Germany, but then didn't feel like I had a big enough break. It's been a long year for me traveling to America, so I had a nice five weeks and I'm happy -- I am really happy to be back. I’ve got six big tournaments coming up, so it’s nice.”
Lowry enjoyed time off with his wife Wendy but also kept his short game sharp.
Missing the Ryder Cup was a blow but like playing partner Graeme McDowell, who shot 67 to share 31st on three under, he watched every minute, partly as a reminder of what he wants to be in two years’ time.
“I watched; didn’t miss much of it,” he said. “Obviously I think it was always going to be a tough task for us Europeans but you look at the margin of victory, I think that flatters the Americans a little bit.
"If you watch Sunday again, the Americans just holed everything, which is a little bit unfortunate for the Europeans.
"But like I said, it was always going to be a tough task. I wish I was there to help them but obviously I wasn’t, so try to make sure I’m there for the next one."
As for his round, Lowry knows he could have gone lower but with 36 holes to play over the Old Course, he’s hopeful he can make a charge up the leaderboard in an event where he was tied third in 2013 and tied sixth in 2014
"I probably should have been better again. I didn't birdie 16, which is easy, and missed a good chance on the last, but my first week back after five weeks, it's pretty good. I've got St. Andrews for two days now, which I feel like I can go out and shoot good scores.
“I just didn’t birdie the holes I should have, really. I wasn't hitting it close enough on the holes I should have. I’m putting quite good and my game feels really good, so I’m just looking forward to the next few tournaments."
Fisher added a 68 on the Old Course to his 65 at Kingsbarns to lead by a shot on 11 under par from Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren (KB 68) with Alex Noren (KB 71) third on nine under.
Apart from Lowry and McDowell, who had three birdies and an eagle three at the ninth in his 67, it was an average day for the rest of the Irish.
Pádraig Harrington had four birdies and five bogeys in a 73 at Kingsbarns to slip to 60th on one under while Greystones’ Paul Dunne, who sits 110th in the Race to Dubai with the top 110 keeping their cards, shot a 72 at Carnoustie to share 70th on level par.
Dunne has made nine birdies in two rounds and knows he needs a low one at Kingsbarns on Saturday if he is to take a giant step towards retaining his card.
The good news is that he played well there on his professional debut last year, opening with an eight under 64 that featured eight birdies and a hole-in-one at the 15th.
Former winner Michael Hoey, who is struggling to keep his card, fell back to tied 85th on one over after a 76 at St Andrews.
As for Naas’ Jack Hume, who is making his professional debut in the event this year, he followed a 74 at Kingsbarns with a 72 on the Old Course and shares 99th on two over.
Ardglass’ Cormac Sharvin did well to shoot a 73 at Carnoustie for a share of 122nd on four over considering he followed a bogey at the sixth with a quadruple bogey eight at the 10th.
As for Paul McGinley. whose profile as a Ryder Cup captain has opened the doors to the US Champions Tour to him next year, he didn’t make a birdie in a 79 at Carnoustie and shares 152nd on seven over.
“Not dropping a shot yesterday at Kingsbarns was a real achievement, seven under was a great start. The course was kind out there but you still had to hit good shots. The wind is quite tough. The front is straight downwind so it plays relatively easy although the front pin is hard to get at and then you turn to the back and it's all off the left. So you're kind of hanging on a little bit but you still know if you hit good shots, you can have birdie chances.
“There’s no getaway out of Carnoustie. At least with Kingsbarns and St Andrews, you can kind of get away with it a little bit whereas Carnoustie, you have to be really on your game. If I can play how I've played the first two days, I feel like I've got a good chance of going out and shooting a good score.”
“I played really solid today. Unfortunately I didn't hole any putts this round. I think I made 17 greens – but I wasn't close enough really, I hit a lot of greens, but I need to get a little bit closer and putt a little bit better to shoot a really low one.”
“I'm happy. I played decent but had a few three-putts and then didn’t make as many long putts as I did yesterday but overall I am pleased with the score and where I am on the leaderboard. I’m looking forward to St Andrews tomorrow. I love it. It grows on me every time. I like the challenge of how big it is, you know, but you still have to hit good shots. The first few times I was there, I thought it was crazy. I couldn't focus but now I just love playing there.”
“It’s just a shame to finish with a double because I was going along nicely and making a few putts. I only had one double on the card. You can't drive it in the fairway bunkers, you just can't. I'll have to avoid those tomorrow at St Andrews as well.
“I've been here two or three times, so really look forward to playing the Old Course. I don’t know who is playing Carnoustie today or tomorrow, but I know if I put a really low one up there tomorrow, I'll be right in it.”
Round Two Scores
133 R Fisher (Eng) 65 68,
134 J Lagergren (Swe) 66 68,
135 A Noren (Swe) 64 71,
136 J Kruger (RSA) 68 68,
137 T Hatton (Eng) 67 70,
138 U Van Den Berg (RSA) 69 69, M Ford (Eng) 66 72, J Hansen (Den) 70 68, M Warren (Sco) 72 66, R Sterne (RSA) 69 69, T Pieters (Bel) 70 68,
139 M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 73 66, F Fritsch (Ger) 68 71, R Bland (Eng) 70 69, T Fleetwood (Eng) 72 67, R Karlberg (Swe) 68 71, S Kjeldsen (Den) 71 68, M Kaymer (Ger) 71 68, B Wiesberger (Aut) 73 66,
140 A McArthur (Sco) 70 70, Shane Lowry (Irl) 72 68, Y Yang (Kor) 71 69, A Dodt (Aus) 70 70, P Peterson (USA) 70 70, R Cabrera Bello (Esp) 70 70, A Cañizares (Esp) 68 72, A Wall (Eng) 71 69, B Virto (Esp) 71 69, L Jensen (Den) 71 69, P Hanson (Swe) 71 69,
141 D Horsey (Eng) 72 69, J Quesne (Fra) 72 69, G Coetzee (RSA) 72 69, J Ahlers (RSA) 70 71, E Van Rooyen (RSA) 72 69, P Meesawat (Tha) 70 71, R Ramsay (Sco) 70 71, B Dredge (Wal) 69 72, J Zunic (Aus) 70 71, N Colsaerts (Bel) 71 70, C Stroud (USA) 70 71, R Dinwiddie (Eng) 73 68, N Fasth (Swe) 72 69, M Bremner (RSA) 73 68, R Paratore (Ita) 71 70, Graeme McDowell (Nir) 74 67, C Shinkwin (Eng) 67 74, A Johnston (Eng) 71 70, E De La Riva (Esp) 71 70,
142 R McEvoy (Eng) 73 69, R Davies (Wal) 74 68, R West (RSA) 69 73, S Jamieson (Sco) 67 75, F Zanotti (Par) 72 70, C Lee (Sco) 69 73, R Karlsson (Swe) 71 71, L Oosthuizen (RSA) 71 71, B Evans (Eng) 72 70, S Khan (Eng) 71 71,
143 J Winther (Den) 74 69, G Storm (Eng) 71 72, Pádraig Harrington (Irl) 70 73, R Rock (Eng) 70 73, G Havret (Fra) 76 67, M Guyatt (Aus) 69 74, E Pepperell (Eng) 68 75, G Bourdy (Fra) 69 74, P Waring (Eng) 71 72, C Paisley (Eng) 71 72,
144 M Ilonen (Fin) 73 71, K Broberg (Swe) 74 70, L Canter (Eng) 72 72, P Larrazábal (Esp) 71 73, D Drysdale (Sco) 72 72, F Laporta (Ita) 75 69, T Van Der Walt (RSA) 74 70, N Bertasio (Ita) 74 70, R Wattel (Fra) 78 66, A Wu (Chn) 74 70, D Burmester (RSA) 71 73, D Brooks (Eng) 69 75, R Green (Aus) 71 73, Paul Dunne (Irl) 72 72, A Levy (Fra) 73 71,
145 G Forrest (Sco) 73 72, N Dougherty (Eng) 73 72, M Carlsson (Swe) 73 72, D Bransdon (Aus) 69 76, K Mueck (Aus) 73 72, S Gallacher (Sco) 70 75, E España (Fra) 72 73, T Merritt (USA) 72 73, A Otaegui (Esp) 70 75, M Siem (Ger) 77 68, J Morrison (Eng) 71 74, T Olesen (Den) 73 72, J McLeary (Sco) 71 74, Michael Hoey (Nir) 69 76,
146 S Dyson (Eng) 75 71, O Fisher (Eng) 73 73, T Lewis (Eng) 74 72, D Willett (Eng) 73 73, J Parry (Eng) 74 72, M Korhonen (Fin) 73 73, J Jeong (Kor) 72 74, N Holman (Aus) 69 77, P Edberg (Swe) 74 72, R Lee (Can) 71 75, L Slattery (Eng) 70 76, E Molinari (Ita) 69 77, Jack Hume (Irl) 74 72, S Lee (Kor) 73 73, J Carlsson (Swe) 75 71,
147 B Hebert (Fra) 74 73, R Jacquelin (Fra) 67 80, M Madsen (Den) 73 74, J Luiten (Ned) 75 72, F Aguilar (Chi) 74 73, N Elvira (Esp) 77 70, E Ferguson (Sco) 74 73, M Kieffer (Ger) 73 74,
148 M Southgate (Eng) 78 70, G Stal (Fra) 74 74, D Im (USA) 70 78, D Fichardt (RSA) 73 75, L Bjerregaard (Den) 73 75, T Fisher Jnr (RSA) 75 73, S Webster (Eng) 72 76, B Rumford (Aus) 74 74, Cormac Sharvin (Nir) 75 73, T Linard (Fra) 74 74, B Grace (RSA) 73 75,
149 S O'Hair (USA) 76 73, M Manassero (Ita) 73 76, D Lipsky (USA) 73 76, C Bezuidenhout (RSA) 74 75, J Hugo (RSA) 70 79, H Porteous (RSA) 75 74, B Åkesson (Swe) 77 72, C Berardo (Fra) 79 70, R Evans (Eng) 73 76, M Baldwin (Eng) 75 74,
150 M Fitzpatrick (Eng) 77 73, G Boyd (Eng) 76 74, B Stone (RSA) 75 75, A Quiros (Esp) 80 70, T Immelman (RSA) 77 73, J Donaldson (Wal) 71 79, J Campillo (Esp) 76 74, N Srithong (Tha) 74 76, D Dixon (Eng) 75 75,
151 Paul McGinley (Irl) 72 79, O Bekker (RSA) 77 74, M Millar (Aus) 77 74, J Walters (RSA) 72 79, J Blaauw (RSA) 74 77,
152 O Wilson (Eng) 76 76, A Meronk (Pol) 72 80, S Gros (Fra) 77 75, R Gouveia (Por) 76 76,
153 C Hanson (Eng) 74 79, D Valente (Aus) 75 78, Z Blair (USA) 72 81, J Fahrbring (Swe) 77 76,
154 R Kakko (Fin) 80 74,
155 M Goggin (Aus) 80 75,
157 L Westwood (Eng) 75 82.