Matthew McClean leads the way as the strokeplay stages of the North of Ireland Championship are whittled down to its top-64 ahead of the matchplay rounds.
The Malone golfer fired a blemish-free four-under-par 68 to qualify in top spot at eight-under. That was one shot better than Royal Portrush’s Richard McCrudden and two better than Castle’s Robert Moran who added a 72 to his opening 65 on day one for outright third.
“I have been hitting a lot of greens and working hard on my putting with Malone pro Michael McGee so things are pretty good just now. Hopefully, I will be around here for another few days,” said McClean after his round.
The North of Ireland Championship is the latest event in the Bridgestone Order of Merit where an Ireland cap for the Home Internationals is on the line for the top two in the standings.
There are only three tournaments left in the series with Robin Dawson and Alex Gleeson, who currently occupy positions one and two, absent from the North because of a clash with the European Amateur Team Championships meaning an opportunity exists to make up ground.
The presence of Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe looms large after the big hitting Irish international qualified in a share of fourth, but given that we’re now entering knockout competition, it really is all to play for over the next few days at Royal Portrush.
BRIDGESTONE ORDER OF MERIT – TOP TEN
1 Robin Dawson (Tramore) 503
2 Alex Gleeson (Castle) 410
3 Robert Brazill (Naas) 345
4 Mark Power (Kilkenny) 278
5 James Sugrue (Mallow) 233
6 James Fox (Portmarnock) 205
7 Eanna Griffin (Waterford) 198
8 Eddie McCormack (Galway Bay) 180
9 Devin Morley (Oughterard) 170
10 Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo) 158
POINTS DISTRIBUTION AT THE NORTH OF IRELAND
Winner – 250
Runner-up – 160
Semi-Finalists – 115
Quarter-Finalists – 78
Round of last 16 – 58
Qualifiers – 30