Caldwell right there; Dunne into the weekend at Close House

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Caldwell right there; Dunne into the weekend at Close House

Jonathan Caldwell (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell brushed off two early bogeys to post a two-under par round of 69 to remain in contention at the halfway stage of the Betfred British Masters at Close House.

Starting the day at minus-four, the 36-year old opened with consecutive bogeys before steadying the ship to be one-over at the turn.

Recovered after that early wobble, he picked up three further birdies on a blemish-free inward nine to reach the clubhouse at six-under par, just five shots off the lead and with a weekend’s worth of golf to look forward to.

It’s really encouraging stuff from Caldwell who has seen his re-emergence on the main tour somewhat stunted since graduating via Q-School last year. He missed the two-event swing in Austria over the last fortnight but looks intent to make up for lost time as we enter the six-event UK series.

Meanwhile, Paul Dunne guaranteed himself a first pay cheque of 2020 after making the cut on the number at minus-one.

The 2017 champion returned to the fairways for the first time since losing his card last year and put any injury worries behind him with an assured two-round showing.

Scores of 71 and 70 proved good enough for the Greystones swinger who’s made no secret about his intent to hit the ground running upon his return to the fairways after such an extended absence. All-four rounds under his belt at the first time of asking should go a long way towards achieving that goal.

With the cut falling at one-under par, a fighting performance from Cormac Sharvin wasn’t enough to claw back the necessary shots. The Ardglass professional returned an improved one-under par round of 71 but fell short of the weekend mark at plus-one.

Gavin Moynihan posted rounds of 73 and 76 for a disappointing seven-over par tally.

At the top, Renato Paratore added a second round 66 to his opening 65 to get to 11 under par and open up a one shot lead at the Lee Westwood hosted event.

The 23-year-old Italian reached the halfway stage without dropping a shot at Close House to sit a shot clear of South African Justin Harding and England’s Dale Whitnell.

Paratore, who is seeking a second European Tour title after his maiden win in Sweden three years ago, made gains at the first and 14th, as well as picking up birdies at all three par fives on the course – his pitch for eagle on the 17th stopping inches short of the cup.

“It felt really good today,” said the leader. “I played really solid, especially the short game. I saved some shots when I needed it, so I’m very happy my game. It wasn’t so different to yesterday – always rain! The wind was less today. Yesterday was windy and rainy so today was better.

“I’m going to rest and do some exercise in the room because you can’t go to the gym. It’s obviously a different atmosphere without the crowd but I’m just delighted to be back out playing again. I like to play every week so for me it’s great being back.

“During the restrictions you just have to accept it. I tried to stay in good shape physically. I did not practise much technically but I just worked every day on the physical aspect.”

Harding came storming out of the blocks with four birdies in his first five holes and added further gains at the seventh, ninth, 16th and 17th in a best of the week round of 63. Meanwhile Whitnell also kept a clean card, recording five birdies as well as an eagle on the 17th in his round of 64.

England’s Ashley Chesters, Dane Rasmus Højgaard and Scottish pair Calum Hill and round one leader David Law are one shot further back on nine under par, with another Englishman in Oliver Fisher and New Zealand’s Ryan Fox at eight under par.

Tournament host Westwood made the cut on one under par following  his second round 71, as did evergreen Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez, who is three under par at the halfway stage of his record equalling 706th European Tour appearance.

Full scoring HERE

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