Shane Lowry may have failed to match the fireworks of round one but he remains right in contention at the halfway stage of the Portugal Masters.
The Clara man was left frustrated by a run of nine straight pars to start his second round but came home in 33 to card a two-under-par 69. That finds him in a share of 8th spot on nine-under-par with the 2012 champion just three shots off the lead with 36-holes to go at a venue where we knows he can win.
Paul Dunne is next best of the Irish after a second successive 68 moved him into a share of 25th on six-under. Dunne looked back to his composed self carding four birdies to ease himself within six shots of the lead at the halfway point.
The pair proved to be the only Irish contenders to make a sharp halfway cut of three-under-par as Padraig Harrington’s recent run of form came to an end despite a two-under-par 69 this afternoon.
Harrington’s level par total fell well short of the required mark while there was disappointment also for Robin Dawson whose first round 74 proved too much to overcome in round two.
On professional debut the Tramore prospect certainly didn’t look overawed by the occasion and returned a much improved two-under-par round of 69 to mark his first venture into paid company with a plus-one 36-hole total. No doubt better days lie in wait after an experience that’s sure to stand to him in the long run.
At the top, Oliver Fisher fired the first 59 in European Tour history as he moved into a share of the lead on day two in Portugal.
In 46 years and over 690,000 rounds of golf nobody had ever breached the 60 barrier on the European Tour but Fisher changed all that at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, making ten birdies and an eagle in his 12 under par circuit.
After starting his round at level par, his score for the day was his score for the week and he shared that total with fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell and Australian Lucas Herbert.
Overnight leader Herbert carded a 67 with Pepperell going one better but the day belonged to Fisher, who grazed the edge on the last when putting for a 58.
Another Englishman in Matt Wallace was a shot off the lead after a 67, one clear of China’s Li Haotong, Italian Renato Paratore and Frenchman Adrien Saddier.
Since the formation of the European Tour in 1972 there had been 19 rounds of 60, with David Llewellyn’s in 1988 and Brandon Stone’s earlier this summer sandwiching – among 14 others – two from Darren Clarke and one here on the Algarve from Scott Jamieson in 2013.
Fisher is now in a category of his own in Tour history and after having to fire a 64 here two years ago to keep his card, he admits it is an amazing feeling to be Mr 59.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “It feels great to make history here in Portugal. It’s a great tournament and it’s great for the European Tour and obviously myself to shoot 59.
“I was chuffed with the day. When I went out I was at level par and trying to make the cut and then shooting that, it was just a great day all round. It was fun, I tried to enjoy it and thankfully I got over the line.”
Fisher started with three birdies and then eagled the par five fifth from a bunker before adding further gains on the sixth and eighth to turn in 28.
He birdied the tenth and 11th and when he got on the green at the par five 12th in two and made a third birdie in a row, he was ten under for the day.
The 30 year old got up and down from the side of the driveable par four 15th for another birdie but needed to hole a 20-footer to save par at the par three next after leaving his tee-shot a long way from the hole.
He got on the par five 17th in two and another birdie meant a routine par up the last sealed his place in the history books.
Herbert eagled the par five fifth and birdied the 11th before doing well to save par after finding water on the 12th. Another gain on the 17th moved him alongside Fisher after a bogey-free effort.
“I would have liked to have probably taken a bit more advantage of those conditions but I’m still happy to be in the position that I am going into the weekend,” he said.
“The one thing lacking from the résumé at the moment is a win so if I can keep putting myself in a good position going into Sunday that would mean quite a lot – to get a win out here in Europe.”
Pepperell birdied the third and fifth but a double-bogey on the sixth gave those shots back before another gain on the seventh saw him turn in 34. Further birdies came on the tenth, 12th, 14th and 15th, with a smart par save on the next keeping him in the lead.
Wallace – already a three-time winner this season – sandwiched a bogey on the seventh with birdies on the fifth and eighth before long putts on the ninth and 11th got him into double figures. Another gain came on the 13th but he was left frustrated as he failed to take advantage of the 15th and 17th.
Paratore and Saddier both signed for rounds of 66, while Li carded a 67.
Local favourite Ricardo Gouveia made seven birdies in eight holes from the 17th to share the lead before a triple-bogey on the last saw him settle for a 66 and sit at nine under alongside Swede Marcus Kinhult, Lowry and Australian Jason Scrivevner.
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