Seamus Power confessed he was inspired by the calm and confidence team leader Paul McGinley and three time major winner Padraig Harrington as he surged into contention for an Olympic medal in Rio.
Set to graduate from the Web.com Tour to the PGA Tour in the autumn, the 29-year old from West Waterford Golf Club made an eagle and four birdies in a four under 67 to move up 17 places to tied 10th on four under par.
Harrington birdied his last two holes to salvage a level par 71 but at one under par, the 44-year old Dubliner fell four places to tied 21st and trails leader Marcus Fraser of Australia by nine strokes at halfway.
Fraser birdied the 18th to add a two under 69 to his opening 63 and lead by one stroke from Belgium’s Thomas Pieters (66) on 10 under par with Open champion Henrik Stenson alone in third on eight under after a 68.
Power is just four shots off the bronze medal spot — and only six off the lead — and he’s feeling good about his chances.
“Other people are probably more surprised than I am,” said Power who was four udner with four to play and then sandwiched a chip in eagle two at the 16th befween bogeys at the 15th and 17th.
“It's only golf. If you play well, you're going to have a shot. If it's your week, it's your week, and I hope some of the putts drop at the weekend and I can take advantage of it.”
As for the influence of McGinley and Harrington, he said: “The most nervous I've been this week was on the first tee playing my practice round with Pádraig. He's an idol for Irish golf, always has been.
“It's been great to get to know him a little bit and play with him. He's been very helpful. Paul, too, and Ronan [Flood, Harrington's caddie].
“Those guys couldn't be anymore helpful. They are not afraid to share what they have learned. They have confidence in themselves….really they do all the simple things very, very well and they are very strong mentally.
“When you see that up close, it kind of gives you a little bit more confidence in yourself that, yeah, knowing I can do what these guys and do. It's just a matter of going out and executing under pressure.”
On his strategy for the weekend, Power added: “A lot of the same to be honest. I'm driving it well. They will be tucking the pins, so you have to plan to play away from all the pins and give yourself chances.
“There's some holes where obvious birdie holes and a lot of holes you just really try to get to. Sort of pick my spots and see if I can make some 15, 20 footers.”
The West Watford man is not short of support either with his father, two aunts and three close family friends cheering him on.”
Fraser, the first round leader after an opening 63, followed that up with a solid two-under-par 69 to lead the 60-strong field with a ten-under-par total of 132.
Now the man from Melbourne can expect a strong challenge from no fewer than five Europeans – including the Champion Golfer of the Year, Henrik Stenson of Sweden - who are poised to make their move over the final 36-holes which will see the gold, silver and bronze decided at Reserva da Marapendi Golf Course on Sunday afternoon.
Fraser’s accomplished performance earned him the most slender of margins over emerging Belgian star, Thomas Pieters, whose 66 lifted him to nine-under-par, one in front of Stenson, who added a 68 to his opening 66.
England’s Justin Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, and Frenchman Gregory Bourdy, are right in the mix a further two shots behind on 136 after matching rounds of 67 and 69. A fifth European, Rafa Cabrera Bello, sustained his continent’s challenge alongside Canada’s Graham DeLaet and New Zealand’s Danny Lee, who fired a best-of-the-day 65.
Two-time Masters champion, Bubba Watson, battled his way back into contention with a terrific second round of 67, following a disappointing opening 73. On 140, two-under-par, Watson needs a strong Saturday in Rio, as does his United States team-mate, Matt Kuchar who added a 70 to his first round 69.
Fraser admitted that he felt some nerves as he set out in the second round, but was pleased with the way he stayed calm under the pressure of competing for an Olympic title. He said: “You always feel nerves, but I've done a really good job of controlling them over the last couple days.”
But it helped to have his best friend, Jason Wallace, caddying for him. “Obviously having my best mate on my bag to have a chat to and laugh with - and laugh at - has been good fun,” Fraser said. “We're having a great time out there. He's taken the week off work to come over and caddie for me. It's a lot of fun out there with him. We've known each other since we were kids, ten years old.”
The looming presence of Stenson will add considerable lustre to an already exciting Olympic Games golf competition, while Rose also represents a huge medal threat as one of the elite group of major champions in the field.
Stenson, who stabilised his round in tough conditions with a 50-foot birdie putt on the second hole and a 108-footer to save par on the third, said: “There's a lot of golf still to play. Of course, I've always said that I always prefer to be two ahead than two behind, but if you're not there at the halfway point, you've got more to make up for the next two rounds.
"But over 36 holes, if you're playing good, you can obviously make up quite a few shots. Yeah, I’m happy with the first two days.”
Rose felt he hadn’t reached his full potential over the first 36 holes and commented: “They certainly don't give anything out today, so all you can do is put yourself in position.
"I feel like I'm in a good position going into the weekend. I feel like I have another gear or two to try and find, and it would be nice if it all clicked into shape when you need it.
“It was good. I was solid. You know, I was just staying in third gear with an uphill climb, just grinding it out. I haven't seen any long putts fall. I had the hole‑in‑one obviously yesterday which was a big stroke of luck, but I feel like there haven't been any sort of distance putts made yet or anything like that. So I feel that I need to keep doing what I'm doing and wait for a run of birdies.”
Quotes of the Day
Marcus Fraser 132 (63, 69)
“I think whenever you play, you want to play your absolute best and give it everything. You want to finish as well as you possibly can. That will be no different on Sunday afternoon. Whether I'm back in the pack or whether I'm fighting out for a medal, I'll be giving it everything I possibly have and laying it all on the line.”
Thomas Pieters 133 (67, 66)
“If you don't dream about it (an Olympic medal), you're never going to achieve it. I am thinking about it, yes, but you kind of put that to the side when you're playing and try to shoot the lowest you can.”
Henrik Stenson 134 (66, 68)
“I saw a couple of the guys (from the Swedish handball team) out there. I've been watching them quite a lot, so I guess it's only fair that they repay the favour. Of course, when you have some of the best athletes out there, you want to try to hit it close and I did on a couple of occasions. They have got a day off, so I get they are just out relaxing and healing up some bruises from yesterday's battle.”
Justin Rose 136 (67, 69)
“I don't think we knew what to expect (from the Olympic Games golf) and I think it has exceeded expectations, for sure. I just think the camaraderie between the wider team that you're a part of has been fantastic. The friendships that you actually make outside of your sport and stuff like that, I feel that is kind of the state of the Olympics. I think is what you appreciate when you get here.”
Thorbjorn Olesen 138 (70, 68)
"I think it's great (the Olympics). It's a good atmosphere out there today. Even with the rain this morning, there was still guys out there cheering you on. You see your own flag and you see all the other flags out there, people hanging them around their neck and stuff like that. That's a great atmosphere.”
Bubba Watson 140 (73, 67)
“What a privilege and honour that golf is in the Olympics and to be a part of this. Right or wrong, you know, it's hard for me to focus on golf because of the fact that it's just a dream of a lifetime to be associated with these great athletes.”