Leona Maguire birdied two of her last four holes to remain in the hunt for her maiden LPGA Tour victory as Stephanie Meadow carded a remarkable 18 successive pars to keep her hopes alive of keeping her card at the Pelican Women's Championship in Florida.
Following an almost immaculate eight-under 62 with another low round was always going to be a challenge but 26-year old Maguire chiselled out a two-under 68 at Pelican Golf Club near Tampa to go into the weekend tied for third on 10 under par.
The Co Cavan star is just one stroke behind Lexi Thompson and former college rival Jennifer Kupcho, who carded six-under 64s to top the leaderboard on 11 under.
“I felt like I played nice,” Maguire said. “Didn’t hold putts like I did yesterday; hit some really good approach shots and didn’t quite take advantage.
With the top 14 on the leaderboard covered by just four shots, she added: “I think it’s going to be probably a shoot-out at the weekend . . . just trying to make as many birdies as you can and keep your foot down, see where it stands at the end of the weekend.”
Starting on the back nine, Maguire turned in level as she birdied the 14th and bogeyed the 18th, then came home in two under as birdies at the first, sixth and ninth cancelled out a lone bogey at the second.
She’s tied for third with Taiwan’s Hsu Wei-ling on 10 under par and it was also a good day for Meadow, who took a leaf out of Nick Faldo’s book in the final round of the 1987 Open at Muirfield when she made 18 pars in a second successive 70 to make the cut on the mark.
Meadow is 101st in the Race to CME Globe standings and she may need a top 30 finish in Tampa to make the top 100 who keep their cards and avoid a trip to the Q-Series.
She needs a hot weekend and so too does Pádraig Harrington if he’s to clinch a spot in next week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Harrington hasn’t played in the season-ending event since 2016, but after following his opening 68 in AVIV Dubai Championship with a five-under 67 to share 17th on nine under, he’s on track to secure the top-seven finish he calculates he needs to progress.
With affiliate member Will Zalatoris added to next week’s field, the top 51 in the Race to Dubai will tee it up on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, and 56th ranked Harrington knows he still has work to do.
"I had three three-putts today, but nine under is still right up there," said the three-time Major winner, who lies six shots behind defending champion Antoine Rozner after making seven birdies and two bogeys. "What am I, six behind? So hopefully, I need another nine under over the weekend.
Playing alongside Harrington, Rozner added a 64 to his opening 65 to lead by a shot from Denmark's Joachim B Hansen and Italy's Francesco Laporta on 15-under par.
Clandeboye's Jonathan Caldwell will need to finish at least fifth to make it to the Earth Course next week and while he was 47th in six under, eight shots outside the top five, he recovered from what might have been a fatal double-bogey at the 14th, reeling off three birdies in his last four holes in an eight-birdie 67.
On the PGA Tour, Shane Lowry was in danger of missing back to back cuts for the first time in over a year in the weather-delayed Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open.
Resuming on two under par with eight holes of his first round to complete, the Offaly man got to three under playing the 18th but had to settle for a 69 after a closing double-bogey.
He then went back out and double-bogeyed the 13th, his fourth, and triple-bogeyed the 17th en route to a three-over 73 that left him a shot outside the projected cut line on two over as Graeme McDowell prepared to start his second round on two under.
Séamus Power birdied three of his last five holes as he followed a 75 with a 70 to finish on five over as Martin Trainer carded back to back 65s – putting 16 missed cuts in his last 17 starts behind him – to lead by a shot from Kevin Tway on 10 over.
Meanwhile, Simon Bryan tied for fifth on five under with James Sugrue 27th on level par as they secured Category 6 cards at the Alps Tour Qualifying School near Rome.
The qualifying mark for the top 35 and ties fell at one over with Kerry's Michael Young (three over) Kilkenny's Luke Donnelly (six over) earning Category 8 membership.