Ruaidhri McGee continues to fly the flag for Ireland after a second round 68 propelled him into a tie for 5th at the halfway stage of the the Italian Challenge presented by Cashback World.
Having birdied the first, the Rosapenna professional was slow in his work thereafter and made the turn in a blemish-free 34 strokes. However his back nine proved much more exciting with four birdies carded against two bogeys, good enough for a seven-under-par midway total that sees him just four strokes off the lead.
That remains one shot more than Irish duo, Gavin Moynihan and Michael Hoey who again equalled each other’s exploits, though in differing styles today.
Dubliner Moynihan fired four gains and just the one dropped shot once more to move into a share of 9th at six-under-par. Hoey on the other hand looked menacing in his work early on, catching fire with five birdies to make the turn in just 30.
Unfortunately he was unable to keep the iron hot returning three bogeys and just the one gain on the way in to sit alongside Moynihan all but five shots off the lead with 36-holes to go in Sardinia.
Ireland’s trio remain very much in contention but there was heartbreak for Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy who fell one short of the weekend cut. McElroy looked in good shape after a one-under-par start but failed to get anything going on day two with his level par showing just shy of the minus two requirement that opened the doors to the weekend fairways.
It was the same story for both Gary Hurley and Cormac Sharvin (+2) and Stephen Grant (+5) who fell well short of the magic number.
There was no such worries for Sebastian Soderberg who continued to impress in Sardinia after carding a four-under-par round of 67 to lead by two at the halfway stage in Italy.
The Swede held the overnight lead with Mario Galiano Aguilar but surged ahead on a red-hot second day at Is Molas Resort as he continues his quest for a second European Challenge Tour victory.
The 27-year-old, who shot an opening round of 64, began his second round from the tenth tee and went out with three birdies and one bogey to move ahead in the baking Sardinian sun. Galiano Aguilar could not find his form from the opening day and dropped back, while Soderberg continued to find birdies, even after a dropped shot immediately after the turn.
With the sun firming up the Is Molas Resort course, Soderberg tightened his grip on the lead with three birdies after that bogey at the par five first, his tenth, to race away from the chasing pack on 11 under.
On a day where the heat made conditions extremely tough, the 2016 Barclays Kenya Open winner is positive about his chances of more Challenge Tour success.
“I played some really nice golf and holed a few putts, so it was a nice day overall,” he said.
“I played a lot better at the beginning of the round, I just couldn’t find the cup. But it was reserved on the back nine where I was hitting it everywhere and suddenly the ball was going in the hole, and it made for a pretty nice finish.
“I didn’t really have a score in mind, but I wanted to stay up at the top for the weekend. I just need to stay within myself and not over-think things, which I’ve done in the past. I’ve come out on top before, so I’ve got to take myself back to that situation and use that experience.
“Today it was super hot and I’ve never drank so much water on a golf course before. The weather makes you forget about the score a little bit and instead focus on getting through the day.
“It’s definitely tougher in the afternoon because there are some really firm spots on the greens where the ball can get away from you.”
Englishman Jack Senior, who will play in The Open Championship next week, backed up his five-under-par opening 66 with a round of 67. Fellow Swede Niklas Lemke joined Senior on nine-under-par as he birdied the three of his last five holes for a 64 – the round of the day – to lie two behind Soderberg.
Dane Eirik Tage Johansen could have joined the pair in second but a bogey on the last meant he had to settle for two under par round of 69 following his opening 65. The Italian fans, meanwhile, will have two players to cheer over the weekend as Filippo Bergamaschi and Francesco Laporta made the cut, which fell at two-under-par.