Michael Hoey’s hopes of securing European Tour status for next season remain on track after he carded a second successive two-under-par 70 at the Hainan Open in China.
Ireland’s sole representative at Sanya Luhuitou Golf Club this week currently sits in 21st position on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah standings and is hoping to break into the coveted top-15 who will earn their playing privileges to the regular tour next season.
With just two regular season events left in Asia ahead of the tour championship, Hoey has created a solid foundation at the halfway point on which to build as he finds himself in a share of 20th spot on four-under-par.
Winning may be beyond him already this week however, as Kalle Samooja sets a severe pace after posting a six-under-par 66 to take his total to 13-under at the halfway point.
The Finn was in one of the first groups out at Sanya Luhuitou Golf Club on Day Two and quickly set about adding to his opening 65, carding three birdies in his first six holes to keep overnight leader Grant Forrest within reach.
Forrest also posted a trio of birdies to add to his ten under par total, but both men came unstuck on the eighth hole when they had to settle for a bogey apiece. As Forrest began to falter, Samooja got back on track and following three consecutive birdies he stormed past the Scotsman to take the lead.
As Forrest eventually settled for a level par round to stay at ten under, Samooja added two more gains on the closing holes and will now take a three-shot lead into the weekend.
“Yesterday was a good day and I pretty much carried on where I finished yesterday,” Samooja said. “Those two bogeys I made, I three-putted both so they were soft bogeys, but I holed a couple of good birdies. I played pretty solid the whole day.
“It’s my first time here and I really like it. It’s quite wide off the tee but it’s more of a second shot golf course so it suits me pretty well. The greens are perfect so I like it here.”
Samooja revealed that before his second round he received a message of advice from countryman and last year’s Challenge Tour Number One Tapio Pulkannen.
“Tapio actually sent me a message yesterday like ‘first go past Grant Forrest and don’t look back’ but I think it’s easier said than done!
“I’m past him now but hopefully I can keep doing what I’ve been doing and not look back. We’ll see what the weekend brings.
“I knew Grant was a couple of shots in front of me and he was going to start hot today as well. I knew I also had to shoot a low number to keep up with him and suddenly I saw on the leaderboard that he’d hit a couple of bogeys and it can happen to anybody.”
The 30-year-old will quietly celebrate his excellent first half of the Hainan Open this evening but had nature taken an alternative path, he could quite easily have been celebrating something very different.
“I recently became a father, so it’s been a very exciting and happy time recently,” he said.
“He was supposed to be born today actually, but when I got back from France he was born on Monday so it was a bit of a different week off!
“I went to Ireland, played really badly, went home for a day and then came here. I like heat so it’s been a better week than cold Ireland.
“It’s been the consistency that’s helped this year. I’ve missed three cuts by one shot each so I’ve been close every time. I’ve had one more top ten than last year but I’ve also finished higher up this year and had solo finishes like in Denmark and a big finish in Kenya.”
Hot on the heels of Forrest in second are Nico Geyger and Niklas Lemke, both of whom carded five-under-par rounds of 67, while Sean Crocker joins the top five on eight-under-par.
Matt Ford and Troy Moses share sixth place on seven under par ahead a group of seven players a shot back, including Adri Arnaus who carded a bogey-free 66 to move into contention ahead of the weekend.
63 players survived the cut of level par and the third round will begin Saturday morning at 7.10am local time.