Time to get serious. John Murphy and Conor Purcell may be cast in the roles of pursuers to Englishman Todd Clements – two strokes adrift at the midpoint – but the two former Walker Cup players are very much in the hunt of a breakthrough Challenge Tour win in the Irish Challenge on the South Course at The K Club in Straffan, Co Kildare.
On yet another benign day, Clements posted a second round 65 to move to 13-under-par 131 to claim the outright lead through 36-holes with Corkman Murphy, adding a 67 to his opening 66, and Dubliner Purcell, who signed for a 68 to go with his opening 65, sharing second place on 133 with a big weekend ahead of them.
Murphy sank a 25-footer to save par on his finishing hole and confessed: “It was nice to finish on a positive. I saw Conor’s name at the top of the leaderboard at the back of the green and I thought it would be pretty cool to be playing with him in the last group [on Saturday] … we are good friends and it would be cool to generate a bit of a buzz and create a bit of interest locally.”
And so it proved to be, with Murphy and Purcell joining Clements in the last three-ball of the third round as all go in search of a potentially career-altering win in the fledgling stages of their professional careers.
Purcell had been bogey-free in his opening round but had a far more eventful second round, which featured an eagle, five birdies and three bogeys that saw him stay very much in the thick of title contention.
Tom McKibbin added a second round 70 to his opening 67 to lie on 137 at the halfway stage in tied-10th and very much in the mix, while former British Amateur champion James Sugrue made a significant move with a 66 for 138. Dermot McElroy (67 for 140), amateurs Rob Moran (72 for 140) and Matt McClean (66 for 140) along with Paul McBride (75 for 143) all survived into the weekend to ensure a strong Irish presence.
On the DP World Tour, Zimbabwean-born American player Sean Crocker retained his position at the head of affairs with a second round 66 to add to his opening 63 for a midway total of 15-under-par 129. That gave him a one-stroke lead over Scotland’s Scott Jamieson who leapt into contention with a 64 in the Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews.
Dubliner Niall Kearney – who had seven birdies and a lone bogey in a round of 66 – moved up to a share of tied-15th while David Carey, playing on a sponsor’s invitation, was the only other Irish player to survive the cut as the Castleknock man added a 67 to his opening 71 for 138 to make it on the mark.
In the Trust Women’s Scottish Open on the LPGA Tour at Dundonald Links, Stephanie Meadow shot a second round 71 for 143 to survive the cut on the mark as in-form New Zealander Lydia Ko – with back-to-back 65s for 130 – assumed the 36-hole lead, two strokes clear of American Lilia Vu and South Korean Eun-Hee Ji a stroke further back in third.
World number four Ko, who began her second round on the 10th tee, had a slow start, only making one birdie on her front nine. However, she had an excellent back nine with four birdies and an eagle to put her in pole position going into the weekend.