Seamus Power is just three shots off the lead at the halfway stage of the Horizon Irish Open after he shared in a thrilling finale with playing partner Shane Lowry in Mount Juliet.
A closing birdie helped Power to successive rounds of 68 to move to eight-under and he will look to hunt down halfway leader Jorge Campillo after the Spaniard took advantage of the easier morning conditions to shoot a 68 of his own and climb to eleven-under.
The 36-year-old leads talented Pole Adrian Meronk and the experienced Fabrizio Zanotti by the minimum.
Power who is playing on home soil for just the fourth time and the first time since 2019 traded seven birdies with three dropped shots but he is comfortably the leading Irishman in a share of fourth place.
A deluge of rain arrived just as Power and Lowry were teeing off and the Waterford native started slowly, dropping a shot on the 4th but he rallied with three birdies in four holes to give himself some momentum.
A stunning 5-wood from 250 yards in the fairway bunker set up an easy two-putt birdie on the par-5 10th and he built on that with a fabulous two on the next.
After chipping out of the left trees on 12 he would card his second bogey of the day but once again he showed his bounce-back-ability on 13 rolling in an eight-footer for birdie.
Momentum looked to be stalling after the 34-year-old bogeyed the 16th and made hard work of a par on 17 but between himself and Lowry they teed up a grandstand finish on 18 as both brought the house down with birdies that had very different implications.
Power drilled a soft 8-iron to seven-feet and he did very well to roll it in after Lowry had sent the gallery into raptures moments earlier as he guaranteed his passage into the weekend.
The world number 34 designed his own PING putter four years ago and he hopes he can keep up his form on the greens over the weekend as he plots his title charge.
“It was a funny day because I didn’t start off well, everything was a little loose but from like 6 onwards I felt very much in control in all aspects so it was a lot of good stuff,” explained Power. “I like the greens. I like the speed, felt like I had a chance of making a lot of putts and that’s probably been the strength so far. Everything overall feels pretty good.”
When Power teed it up in Lahinch three years ago he was a relatively unknown quantity but this year he arrived as one of the favourites, but he is relishing his newfound status as one of Ireland’s shining lights and is hoping to create more special memories like the 18th today.
“It’s great to be honest, it’s new. Really haven’t had anything like that before. It was pretty special out there. Shane with the great finish added to it. Pretty sold out for the weekend so will be more of the same so really looking forward to it.
“I haven’t seen a reaction on Friday in tournament golf in the tournaments I’ve played. You knew it was going to be a roar for Shane and it was louder than I expected. Took a few extra seconds with my putt. He was kind of out of it and then all of a sudden he was in the bunker on 15 and like that he’s in for the weekend. It’s great for him and the tournament and Irish golf. He will have a big following in the morning.
“They are moments you dream of for a long time. I imagine it will be pretty special coming down the last couple holes. That will be the goal, obviously need another good round tomorrow to give myself a chance, so try to put that on first, but yeah, you practice holing putts on the last green for The Irish Open and stuff for years and hopefully I’ll have a chance on Sunday afternoon.”
Power has enjoyed another stellar season and he has shown he belongs at the top level with his performances in the first three major championships of his career, including a top-10 at the PGA. The Tooraneena native feels it is time he won again almost a year to the day since his breakthrough PGA Tour win at the Barbasol.
“My game feels in good shape and I feel in a good place mentally with my game. They are two important factors but you need things to go your way and that sort of stuff so we’ll see,” he said.
“11-under, a few back, so I’ll need another good round tomorrow to get into Sunday and that’s going to be the focus. We’ll see, there’s a lot of golf to go and conditions like this, 4- or 5-under will be a good score, like yesterday, maybe a little bit better but a lot is going to be dependent on the weather.”
While it is exciting to dwell on the prospect of a first home winner since Rory McIlroy in 2016, all the drama came on the cut line as Lowry stole the show with four consecutive birdies to make it into the weekend on –3.
The Clara native saw a 20-footer on 18 disappear and produce a roar from the crowd akin to any Sunday afternoon, nevermind to make the cut on a Friday.
The 2009 Irish Open champion looked dead and buried at one-over after his tee shot found the fairway bunker on 15 but he managed to roll in a ten foot birdie putt to kickstart a superb run to the clubhouse.
A birdie on 16 was followed by a 2-putt birdie on 17 and as he stood over his putt on 18 he had just moved inside the cut on two-under unbeknownst to him. His final blow brought back memories of Saturday night in Whistling Straits.
“It was pretty cool. To be honest, I had kind of resigned myself to the fact I was going home, packing my bags. Don’t know if I’ve ever birdied the last four to make a cut so that’s a first. I’m just happy to be in the weekend. Everybody knows how much this tournament means to me and how much I want to be here. Quite a few people come to see me play and nice to have them here now and I’m looking forward to the weekends,” explained a visibly delighted Lowry.
The weekend is set to be sold out and there is plenty of reason for a large crowd to filter in early in the morning as Pádraig Harrington and Niall Kearney will join Lowry in the early tee times.
Harrington carded a 71 to climb to three-under and he put on a stirring finish of his own with two closing birdies to set the tone for a thrilling afternoon.
Meanwhile Kearney looks set for another decent payday despite a two-over 74 leaving him on the cut mark at –2.
There was disappointment for Jonathan Caldwell, Paul Dunne, Mark Power, Cormac Sharvin, John Murphy, Colm Campbell and David Higgins as their campaigns came to an early halt.