Portmarnock golfer James Fox won’t let complacency seep in ahead of the final day of the North of Ireland as he takes a narrow lead into his third round at Royal Portrush.
The 41-year-old backed up his brilliant 66 opener with a solid 72 for a -5 total and a one-shot lead over his clubmate Brandon St John and the duo of AIG Irish Men’s Close champion Rob Moran (Castle) and South of Ireland winner Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint).
The action turned to the Dunluce Links on Thursday and with other players failing to make headway in the difficult conditions, Fox held his nerve to take the overnight lead.
There are still two more rounds to play at Royal Portrush tomorrow but Fox is in prime position to end his draught.
“I played okay this season, I played nicely at the Irish Amateur in the Island, I did okay in the East. I played okay without doing anything. Nothing really stands out but I have been playing nicely over the year,” said Fox.
“I haven’t won anything in 12 years now. The last thing I won was the Waterford Scratch Cup. It’s been a while since I last won.
“It’s only halfway but it’s nice to shoot two good scores. In reality, with the forecast for tomorrow, I think anyone who makes the cut has a chance to win.
“It’s going to be pretty rough, I believe, so it’s still wide open.”
Only 11 players finished under par after their second round with six other golfers finishing on level par and the cut falling at +5.
Reigning champion, Hugh Foley (Royal Dublin), missed the cut but there is still plenty of experience at the right end of the leaderboard with Moran shooting 74 and Campbell, 70, on Thursday.
St John shot a stunning 68 while Ryan Griffin (Ballybofey & Stranorlar) is also well in touch on -3 and they will all hope to challenge as Fox looks for more of the same after an impressive opening two rounds.
He had a double bogey on the third but birdies on 10, 12 and 17 cancelled out his other bogey, on 11, and kept him in the ascendency.
“You have to try and make hay on the Valley. You see the leaders all did that. Having said that, Hugh Foley won last year by shooting great scores on the Dunluce. So it can be done either way. But it was nice to get under par in the Valley. It took a bit of pressure off for today certainly,” said Fox.
“It was quite windy today, Dunluce it’s a really big tough golf course now with the changes. I was very happy to shoot under par. Certainly I would have taken it on the first tee.
“There is a long way to go, 36 holes to go, it’s a lot of golf to play. But I am looking forward to it. It’s the last bit of golf for the year so I am just going to go out and enjoy myself.
“Any day you are playing Portrush is a good day no matter what the weather or circumstance.”