Smyth still in hunt as O'Malley sets pace

 

Australian Peter O'Malley captured the early clubhouse lead on day two of the Murphy's Irish Open, with a second round 67 for a nine-under halfway total which leaves him just two shots ahead of Des Smyth as the resilient veteran continues to head-up the Irish challenge.

O'Malley, the former Scottish Open Champion, was in a real birdie battle with his playing partner Mark McNulty for much of the front nine until the Zimbabwean's challenge fell away on the inward stretch.

"I drove the ball well today, hit a lot of good iron shots and didn't make many mistakes," remarked O'Malley which was a stark contrast to how McNulty summed up his day.

"I set off in a concorde but came home in a VW (Volkswagon)," said the 48-year-old who reached the turn in six-under 30 but proceeded to drop five shots on the back nine with just one birdie at the 10th. What could have been course record material turned into an 'ordinary' 69 for the Zimbabwean who finished on five-under.

Smyth, who already has his sights set on the Seniors Tour in America when he turns 50 next year, moved to seven-under after today's 68 and shares third alongside England's Mark Pilkington (66) and another Swede Richard Johnson (67).

"It was a good day and a good result even though I didn't play as well as I did yesterday," explained Smyth who said he would have taken a 68 at the start of the day.

Sweden's Carl Pettersson moved into second place following today's 67 which left this year's Portuguese Open winner sandwiched on eight-under between O'Malley's target and the chasing group which includes Smyth.

Afterwards Smyth paid his playing partner a huge compliment by suggesting he is quietly confident Pettersson could go on and win the tournament.

Padraig Harrington came off the course feeling he left a few shots out there but believes he is still within striking distance after today's 68 leaves him on three-under.

"My game is there, maybe it just lacks a little bit of spark at the moment. If I hole a few putts early on tomorrow then who knows," said Harrington who thought the conditions were easier today.

Elsewhere Darren Clarke started his round with three pars and a birdie at the fourth to get to one-under.

It was a good day for Irish amateur Colm Moriarty, who got back to level par with a fine 69. The Athlone golfer will have an anxious wait to see if he makes the cut which looks like going no higher than level par 142.

Philip Walton kept his composure to return a 69 and at two-under is sure to be around for the weekend.

The defending champion Colin Montgomerie and playing partner Lee Westwood picked up where they left off yesterday. Westwood birdied four in a row from the third and looks set to challenge O'Malley's lead during the afternoon. Monty, meanwhile, got to seven-under with three birdies of his own.