There will be plenty of Irish interest in Madrid this weekend as Niall Kearney, Jonathan Caldwell and Paul Dunne all made the halfway cut at the acciona open de Espana.
It’s an unlikely duo at the top with Paul Waring and Stephen Gallacher locked together at twelve-under, but there are big guns in the chasing pack with two-time winner Jon Rahm and former Scottish Open champion Min Woo Lee just two shots adrift.
Kearney carded successive rounds of 69 to ease into the weekend on four-under. Currently sitting in a share of 36th place the Royal Dublin man is projected to rise three places to 168th in the Race to Dubai and will surely be looking up this weekend as he bids to kickstart his bid to retain full playing privileges.
Kearney’s work came in an eight hole stretch where he carded four birdies and two dropped shots including three birdies in a row from the eighth hole.
He dropped a shot on 11 but rounded off his day with seven straight pars to avoid any late drama.
A birdie on the last edged Caldwell into the weekend as he made the cut on the mark at two-under thanks to a battling level-par 71.
A double-bogey five on the 17th – his 8th had put the Clandeboye man in real danger of missing his second cut on the bounce but birdies on 18, the fourth and his closing ninth hole saw him recover and join his compatriots in adding some Irish to a firey Spanish weekend.
Dunne was the first man out on Friday morning after a level-par 71.
The Greystones man looked like he might have eyes on a late surge into contention when he rose to four-under after ten holes including three successive birdies from the 8th.
However, a double-bogey on the par-4 12th halted his momentum and a birdie on 14 was followed by a bogey on 15 but he held on for the weekend with three closing pars and a 69.
Waring soared to the summit in the morning with a blistering 63 and it looked like it was going to be enough to lead the way on his own heading into the final 36 before Gallacher caught him late on in the day.
After three weeks off he is delighted to be back in the mix.
“I hit some alright shots. I actually got the putter quite hot which is not like me at all really, so it was nice to hole a few long ones coming in and keep that momentum I had going during the round, so happy with that finish definitely.
“I really enjoy this golf course, it suits me. I am staying aggressive with driver and it’s giving me a lot of chances with wedges, which is one of the strong parts of my game. So it’s giving me chances and then I capitalised with the putter which is ideal.
“I have had three weeks out sat on the couch, which is a bit annoying but never mind, it is nice to be back out here. I didn’t do an awful lot in those three weeks but the golf game feels in good shape, and it is nice to be out in the sunshine, (with) great people, great food, great wine and a nice golf course.”
2014 Ryder Cupper Gallacher is chasing his first win since the 2019 HERO Indian Open and he admitted he found his groove after a first made cut in four events at the Dunhill last week.
“I played pretty good the week before going into the Dunhill and then I worked hard with my coach and just found something at the Dunhill, where I played well in practice and all the way through. And I carried it on here, playing well in the pro-am and then for the first two days as well.
“You are always working to improve and we just worked on my backswing. It’s also been a different way of thinking as I’ve been working with my psychologist as well, just freeing myself up and just swinging at it.
“Halfway, you’ve done not a bad job and now you need to do the same again. You’ve got some great players playing.
“The weather has been perfect, and the course is in unbelievable condition, so you can shoot a low score. We’ll just see what happens. If I can play the same over the weekend, who knows.”