They say you can see the Great Wall of China from the Moon, but if the man on the glowing sphere of cheese looked extra hard this morning, he might’ve spotted something even more special at China’s southern most point; the rare sight of a ginger haired Irishman setting the fairways of the island province ablaze with some mighty golf.
Ireland’s leading light on the Challenge Tour this year, Gavin Moynihan, sits in a tie for 10th at the halfway stage of the Hainan Open.
Currently occupying 30th position on the Road to Oman standings, Moynihan backed up an opening day 67 with a two under par round of 70 to lie on seven under for the tournament, just five shots off the lead.
Starting from the 10th, Gavin shot out of the blocks with a smart birdie at his opening par-4, showing no ill-effects from his arduous journey from Scotland after making the weekend cut at the Alfred Dunhill only days before.
If anything he looked energised in his work, easing into his round with a run of pars thereafter, seemingly comfortable in unfamiliar conditions. Another birdie three, this time on 15 was followed by another three pars as The Island Golf Club star’s challenge built momentum, reaching the turn in 34 wallops.
A bogey five at the first, his 10th, momentarily stalled his advances but that blip was soon forgotten with three birdies in his next five holes. Looking primed for a weekend assault at nine under par, there’s no doubt dinner would’ve tasted bitter after he bogeyed two of his last three.
Still, all things considered, and as the lone Irishman in the field, he’ll surely see it differently as he cools off ahead of moving day tomorrow. In the form of his life, Gavin’s right in this tournament.
The man he’ll have to catch is Erik van Rooyen who continued his impressive recent form on the European Challenge Tour by carding a blemish-free 65 to take the halfway lead.
The South African has been in contention on numerous occasions this season, most recently in Kazakhstan where he took a one-shot lead into the final round before finishing fourth, and as a result he sits in tenth place in the Road to Oman Rankings.
Starting the day one shot behind leader Steven Brown, van Rooyen immediately overtook his competitor by bagging four consecutive birdies over his first four holes.
The big-hitting 27 year old carded a further gain at the par five sixth before finishing with back-to-back birdies at the 17th and 18th.
It could have been even better for van Rooyen who was inches away from holing out for an eagle on the par five 18th after an excellent approach shot from the heart of the fairway.
But after just two dropped shots over 36 holes van Rooyen was delighted with his two days’ work – which he credits to arriving in China early.
“I flew to Sanya early and I think that has made a huge difference,” he said. “I arrived on Saturday then I had Sunday to recover before three practice days.
“The conditions have been really tough with the heat and the humidity but I feel that this course suits me and I am starting to get used to the greens – they are very different to what we have in Europe and South Africa.
“I have been hitting it great and putting really well over the last two or three months and I felt like that has just carried on into this week.
“I found myself five under through six holes and, although things evened out slightly, I did really well to birdie the last two.
“I was so close to holing my wedge shot at 18 – I was left with an easy tap-in birdie – which was very satisfying as I have been working on my wedge play a lot recently.
“I am definitely starting to feel more comfortable leading after being in this position a lot this year. The more you do it the better you feel in that position and I feel like I am in a place now where I can continue to play good golf throughout the weekend without nerves.
“That experience of being in contention on a regular basis is such a key one and is something I will take away from this Challenge Tour season.”
Closest to van Rooyen is Indonesia’s Rory Hie who carded a 66 to sit one off the lead at the event’s halfway stage.
Also impressing on day two on Hainan Island was New Zealand’s Matthew Perry, who aced the par three 16th after holing out from 183 yards with a seven iron.
“Today was the ninth hole-in-one of my career and my first one in China,” he said.
“The flag was at the back left and slightly hidden as there is a ridge in the green so I didn’t see it go in, but when I walked up to the green I could only see two balls and I thought ‘it is nowhere else but in the hole’.
“I was a bit up and down today but it was great to get another hole-in-one – hopefully I can do it again over the weekend.”
The performance of the tournament so far has come from Chinese amateur Li Linqiang. At 13 years 11 months and 11 days old he is the youngest player to ever make a cut on the Challenge Tour.
Needing a par on the last Linqiang showed maturity beyond his years to roll in a five-foot putt and make the cut on the mark – which was level par.