Shane Lowry remains firmly in the hunt at the British Masters after he carded a second round 69 to sit at seven under par for the tournament and two shots off the lead.
The Offaly man is currently tied for fifth following a solid second day at Woburn, with three birdies and a single dropped shot leaving him just off the pace of tournament leader Matt Fitzpatrick.
However Padraig Harrington failed to kick on in his second round in Bedfordshire, with a one over par round of 72seeing him slip to four under for the tournament and into a share of 23rd place.
After his opening round of 66 on Thursday the three-time Major winner was still five under as he reached the turn on day two, but consecutive birdies on 11, 12 and 13 saw him slip back, before birdies on 15 and 17 left his scorecard looking more respectable.
Leader Fitzpatrick can double his season’s earnings to with a first European Tour title in the British Masters this weekend, but insists securing a return to the US equivalent is more important.
Fitzpatrick added a second round of 69 to his opening 64 at Woburn to share the halfway lead with Soren Kjeldsen on nine under par, one shot ahead of Richard Bland and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
The 21-year-old from Sheffield is in his first full season on the European Tour after coming through the qualifying school last November, but is currently 36th on the Race to Dubai after four top-three finishes, three of them coming in his last seven events.
Despite earning €679,000 so far this year, Fitzpatrick still lives with his parents and was getting stick from playing partner Chris Wood on Friday for his mode of transport, namely a "four or five-year-old Ford Mondeo" compared to the BMW i8 Wood won for a hole-in-one in the BMW PGA Championship in May.
Asked about the prospect of winning his first title this weekend, Fitzpatrick said: “Hopefully it will come with time. I have said to everyone it’s not something I am absolutely chasing and focusing on. If I don’t win between now and the Masters (next April) but get into Augusta on the world rankings, I will be a happy man.”
Fitzpatrick is currently ranked 111th and will need to reach the top 50 by the end of the year or March 28, 2016 to get into the year’s first major.
After winning the US Amateur title in 2013, he partnered defending champion Adam Scott and US PGA champion Jason Dufner in the first two rounds at Augusta in 2014, where he missed the cut by a single shot.
“That would be a dream come true as a professional,” he added. “I don’t think there is anywhere like that place. It’s so special. It would be great to be there as a pro.
“That’s where I want to be. I want to be competing in the long run for majors and stuff like that. It’s about taking my time. I’m only just 21 as well and that’s something everyone keeps telling me.”
As for what he has done with his prize money so far, Fitzpatrick added: “Unfortunately I started having my good results after the good deals had finished. I’ll have to wait for next year now. I’d rather buy a house first, I think.”
Kjeldsen, who turned professional the year after Fitzpatrick was born, could add details of his 68 to the notes he keeps after every round, a habit he started almost 30 years ago.
“I write everything down. I’m a little bit of a geek when it comes to that,” said the 40-year-old, who won the Irish Open in May and finished runner-up in Sweden and Denmark.
“I’ve got statistics from every round I’ve played since I was 11 years old. My approach has always been I have to be really professional and effective in the way that I play. I don’t bomb it 320 (yards) so I’ve got to optimise my game to be able to play against these big guys.”
Bland looked to be falling out of contention when he started his round with two bogeys, but bounced back with five birdies and an eagle on the 11th in his 67, despite needing treatment for a back injury on the course.
“I was struggling to release the club,” Bland, 42, said. “I wasn’t really going at it that hard. I managed to pitch in from about 55 yards on 11 and then I was getting treatment on the next tee; I was stripped off and getting a back rub.
“I had some painkillers which have kind of helped a little bit. It was a little bit uncomfortable walking around and not being able to fully go into shots because I’m protecting it a little bit.”
Tournament host Ian Poulter suffered a dreaded shank on the fifth on his way to a double bogey, but recovered to post a round of 70 and finish four under par.
“It’s like someone smashing you round the head with a wet salmon. It’s the last thing on your mind,” Poulter said. “But I’ve been there in the past and I will do it again.
“It took a long time to get all that back but the recovery from the trees on the 13th was outrageous. Seve (Ballesteros) would have been proud.”