Edoardo Molinari and Craig Lee head field in South Africa

Four Irish golfers miss the cut at Joburg Open

Former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari and Scotland's Craig Lee head into the weekend at the head of the field at the Joburg Open.

With three places at the British Open up for grabs, along with a first prize of €206,000, the leaderboard is bunched at the European Tour event, with nine further players within two shots of the leaders.

All four Irish golfers missed the cut, with Damien McGrane carding a three-over 75 on the East Course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington to finish on two under, with only the players four under and better making the weekend at an event where 210 golfers started.

Rookie Kevin Phelan finished on one under after a 71 on the East Course, with David Higgins's disappearing after a four-over 76 on the same layout left the Kerryman on one over. Peter Lawrie carded a 74 on the West Course to finish on seven over.

For 36-year-old Lee, there could be no greater incentive to win this week, having never played in a Major championship, and he followed his opening 65 with a four-under-par 67 on the West Course.

That took the 36-year-old long-time qualifying school regular to 11-under 132, having played his first round on the par-72 East Course in seven under par.

“The goal was to not fall back and there’s a strong field behind you, so it was important that I didn’t slip back,” Lee said.

Molinari began his week with a seven-under 64 on the West Course, and followed it up with a four-under 68 on the East Course to stay out in front.

In closest attendance to the leaders after 36 holes were England's David Horsey and South African George Coetzee, one shot back.

Horsey enjoyed an eight-under 63 on the West Course and is relishing the battle for Open places, as well as this weekend’s title.

“It’s an added bonus,” Horsey said. “I think it’s a good system, a good change from the R&A to do that. It makes the qualifying a bit fairer and spreads it out over a longer period rather than making it a 36-hole sprint. It’s at the back of my mind at the moment, but it’s certainly a bonus to consider near the end of the week.”

Finland's Roope Kakko posted an eight-under 64 on the East Course to lie on nine-under 134, in a seven-player share of fifth place that also included England's Danny Willett and James Heath, and Scotland's Alastair Forsyth. Forsyth added a steady 70 to his impressive opening 64.