Shane Lowry and Jon Rahm face a Race to Dubai threat from Bernd Wiesberger following the Austrian’s impressive opening 66 at the Italian Open in Rome.
A bogey-free round left the six-time European Tour winner tied for third, just two strokes behind the big-hitting Finn Tapio Pulkakke at tight and testing Olgiata.
If he wins his third title of the season on Sunday, world No 36 Wiesberger could jump from third to first in Race to Dubai.
But while Lowry will have other ideas, his first task is to make the cut after he struggled to find fairways and carded a one-over 72.
The Clara man was two under par after six holes before he lost confidence from the tee and played his last ten holes in three-over to find himself tied for 72nd.
Former Italian Open winner Graeme McDowell leads the Irish challenge, tied for 20th after a two-under 69 featuring just 25 putts.
After making just one of his last six cuts, Greystones’ Paul Dunne birdied three of his last six holes for an encouraging 70 to share 30th.
It was more a struggle for European Ryder Cup captain Pádraig Harrington who sandwiched a birdie four at the 17th between double bogeys at the 15th and 18th in a three-over 74.
Five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey and Ardglass Cormac Sharvin lead the home charge in the Stone Irish Challenge at Headfort.
Hoey dropped just one shot in a three-under 69 and was joined in a share of 10th by Sharvin, who lies eighth in the Challenge Tour race for 15 European Tour cards.
Canada’s Aaron Cockerill, England’s Laurie Canter, Emilio Cuartero Blanco of Spain and Dutchman Daan Huizing carded five-under 67s to lead by one stroke from a five-strong group before play was suspended for darkness with one group to finish.
Jonathan Yates and Gavin Moynihan with 70’s and John Ross Galbraith with a 71 were the only other home players to break par.
At the First Stage Section E of the European Tour Qualifying School, Galway amateur Ronan Mullarney is the best of the bunch despite making a quadruple-bogey eight in a four-over 76 at Bom Sucesso on Portugal.
He's tied for 29th on two-over at halfway, just a shot outside the top 20 and ties who will progress with Donegal’s Brendan McCarroll 51st on five-over after a 75.
Killiney amateur Eoin Leonard is 55th on four-over after a 72 at Golf d’Hardelot in France, five shots outside the top 23 and ties with Mount Juliet’s Stephen Grant seven off the qualifying pace after bouncing back from his opening 80 with a 68.