Hoey hauls himself into contention after birdie blitz in Portugal

Adam McKendry

Michael Hoey (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)

Michael Hoey moved himself into the top-10 at the halfway stage of the Open de Portugal at Royal Óbidos on the Challenge Tour with a five-under 67 on day two that featured a stunning five-hole birdie streak.

Starting the day one-under after a 71 in his first round, the Galgorm man began his second round in a pedestrian manner by cancelling a bogey at the third with a birdie at the sixth before he caught fire in superb fashion.

His second birdie of the day came at the ninth, and that sparked a stunning run that saw him add birdies at his next four holes, bringing him right into the mix having initially been hovering around the cut mark.

Unfortunately, Hoey couldn’t capitalise on his momentum any further, parring his way in from the 14th onwards to get into the clubhouse at six-under, five shots back of the halfway lead. Hoey is currently 31st in the Road to Mallorca after he pulled himself up the rankings with a fine second-placed finish at the B-NL Challenge, and a good finish this week would take him closer to the top-20 which earn European Tour cards for next season.

At the top, Kristian Krogh Johannessen birdied the last hole to take a one-stroke lead into the weekend. The Norwegian posted a bogey-free six under par round of 66 to reach 11 under par at Royal Óbidos Spa and Golf Resort and move clear of Germany’s Marcel Schneider, who sits second on ten under par after carding a six under 66 of his own.

Johannessen started the week emphatically with back-to-back eagles on his opening two holes before seeing several components of his game come together on day two to go bogey-free and move into pole position at the halfway stage.

“I’m very pleased,” he said. “I got a huge start yesterday but after that I didn’t really play solid, but today I was much more solid and I’m much more happy with my game.

“I hit a really good shot in on ten [his first], it would have been a tap-in if it hadn’t gone in and then I chipped in on 11, so it can happen but it’s not often it happens.

“I was hitting my driver better than I have done for a while, my irons are solid and I’m putting quite nicely so everything is quite good.”

The 26-year-old is playing in only his fourth tournament since representing his country at the Tokyo Olympics alongside his good friend Viktor Hovland, who made his debut for Team Europe in the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits earlier today, and is now targeting a string of strong performances to improve his current position of 21st on the Road to Mallorca Rankings.

“I’ve missed a lot of tournaments over the last three months because of the Olympics and then I had an injury with my leg, so I just know I need to play well in a couple of tournaments that are left and hopefully this is the one,” he said.

“The Ryder Cup is something to look at in the evenings and I have a good mate of mine over there playing as well, so I’m looking forward to watching a lot of golf.

“I haven’t spoken to him since he arrived at Whistling Straits but I spoke to him the week before and he just said he was grinding on and hopefully finding an even better game than he has had the last couple of years. He was really looking forward to it.

“You know it’s possible for us, you just need to do the work and hopefully we’re later bloomers, instead of him who was an early one.”

Sweden’s Jens Dantorp posted the joint-low round of the day – an eight under par 64 – to move into a tie for third place alongside Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson, New Zealand’s Daniel Hillier and Austrian Niklas Regner on nine under par. Spain’s Alejandro Del Rey also posted a round of 64 to share seventh place with South African Hennie du Plessis on eight under par, while Swede Christofer Blomstrand is a shot further back in ninth place.

The cut fell at one under par, with 64 players surviving to compete over the weekend.

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