Jonathan Caldwell blasted seven birdies on the round to grab a share of second spot at the halfway stage of the Cordon Golf Open in France and the Clandeboye professional finds himself just one shot off the pace after moving 21 places up the leaderboard to minus-seven.
Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for Dermot McElroy whose two-over-par 74 dropped him 13 places down the leaderboard to four-under.
That’s the same score as Dubliner Gavin Moynihan who took route 66 to a share of 15 spot alongside McElroy after a welcomed uplift in form.
One further back, a triple bogey seven halted Michael Hoey’s steady progress but his level-par 72 keeps him in the hunt at three-under-par regardless.
While Cormac Sharvin scraped the cut-mark by the skin of his teeth on one-over-par despite three double bogeys in round two.
Sadly Ruaidhri McGee’s run ran short by a single stroke on two-over-par while Stephen Grant (+4), Paul McBride (+5) and Neil O’Briain (+6) also endured an early exit from the tournament.
At the top, Adri Arnaus of Spain and England’s Ben Evans sit on eight-under-par and will each take a share of the 36-hole lead into the weekend.
On a wild Day Two that saw six different players lead or co-lead at some point throughout the round, both Arnaus and Evans steadily pieced together quality scores around the 6,420-yard Golf Blue Green de Pléneuf Val André.
A red-hot back-nine, complete with five birdies and no bogeys catapulted Arnaus up the leaderboard — initially into second place behind then leader, and fellow countryman, Daniel Berna Manazares.
When Berna Manazares double-bogeyed his final hole, Arnaus enjoyed a brief stint alone at the top, but was promptly joined by Evans who birdied the 18thfor his second-consecutive 66 and a share of the lead.
Despite being the shortest course European Challenge Tour players will face all season, after the round, both players spoke of how difficult the setup was.
“It’s really tricky, honestly,” said Arnaus. “I feel like it’s a fair course, but you have to be on top of your game in every aspect and that’s what makes it great. You can not be lacking in any part of your game, you’ve got to be complete, which is why it’s so hard too.”
“You’ve got to get it in play off the tee,” Evans added. “The fairways are starting to run more, and you feel like you can go low, but you can lose a ball really quickly out here.”
The Englishman knows a thing or two about playing the Pléneuf, France course. In 2014, he finished in a tie for fourth place at this same event and in his first trip back since, the 31-year-old has implemented the same strategic approach.
“There are a lot of tee shots, where, because it’s running people are going to hit two-irons,” he said. “But if you actually take a driver, it leaves you a much simpler shot in to the greens, which is what I’ve done a little bit.”
The leading duo will be hotly pursued by a trio of players — Jonathan Caldwell, Stuart Manley and Berna Manazares — who sit only one stroke behind.
Manley, who won in France earlier this year at the Hauts de France Golf Open, has been a mainstay at the top of Challenge Tour leaderboards all season, and the Road to Ras Al Khaimah Number Five could be poised to pick up his second trophy on French soil if he continues with his current form.
“My game feels in a good spot at the moment,” he said. “My putters hot — my putter has been hot all year to be honest. I’m enjoying my golf, and I think that’s key, I’ve been in contention a lot and I’m just really enjoying it.”
In all, 65 players survived the cut of one over par and will advance to the weekend. Low-Frenchman honours are currently shared by Damien Perrier and Jérôme Lando Casanova, who sit three shots back of the leaders in tenth place on five under par.