Hopes of a home victory took a battering at the second day of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open with overnight leader Padraig Harrington slumping to a three-over 73 and Shane Lowry struggling with a stomach bug as well as his scorecard.
Both of the local favourites had shone yesterday when the weather in Lahinch was glorious. Harrington had assumed a one-stroke lead over the 156-man field with a seven-under 63 while Lowry was among a large chasing pack after an impressive 66.
The conditions were very different today.
Harrington's early morning tee time coincided with the worst of the weather and four bogeys on the way out reduced him to three-under for the tournament before a more stable back nine allowed him keep any title ambitions frayed but intact.
“You go out there, you're tentative and it really was tough conditions,” said the three-time major champion and Ryder Cup captain. “All my bogeys, like, three of them were three-putts, the other two were chips from the edge of the greens.
Harrington hasn't ruled out the possibility that he could yet claim a second Irish Open title but he conceded that this effort was damaging to his chances and Lowry saw his candidacy take something of a battering as well.
Four-over for the day through the eleventh, the Offaly man had been waking up at night with a bad cough recently but it was his stomach that afflicted him midway through the front nine here.
“Yeah, I don't know what it was,” he explained. “After six I just got a sick tummy and had to go left of the seventh to try and get sick and (again at) the back of nine. I got some tablets which helped me a little bit.
“To be honest, and I am not going to make excuses, I just played badly today. But when I started to feel a little bit better, I played okay coming in. I ground it out well and I was pretty happy with that.”
Birdies at 13 and 15, having taken a tablet to rectify the problem at the turn, left him carding a two-over 72 for the day. He sits on a two-under total overall. That's seven strokes behind Lombard and with roughly four dozen players ahead of him.
The conditions can't be overlooked in the updated lay of the land.
Lombard registered three birdies through his last three holes on Thursday to finish one shot behind Harrington with a 64 and he followed it with a 67 to leave himself in pole position approaching the weekend.
He has played well but the South African, who has missed eight consecutive cuts prior to this, knows that luck has been on his side too as he looks to improve on a sixth-placed finish in Ballyliffin last year.
“We hit a bit of a sweet spot in the middle of the day,” he admitted. “I went out when it just stopped raining in the first two holes and then, sort of from eleven (o'clock) to two it was decent weather. It was scoreable weather.
“Today I had a really good draw, but yesterday, finishing at nine (in the evening) wasn't the best of starts. Just really enjoying it. The weather has played its part with my round, so hopefully it can keep on being good for the weekend.”
He leads by one from England's Eddie Pepperell. The Englishman managed three birdies and an eagle in posting a round of 67 and he too pointed to the weather as an intrinsic factor as the event reached its halfway point.
Twenty players lie within four strokes of the summit so this thing is nothing if not open. Harrington, by the by, lies 21st. That's one shot adrift of Co. Down's Cormac Sharvin who is the leading Irishman after rounds of 66 and 69.
The latter was a very respectable score considering his early tee time coincided with the worst of the conditions. He negotiated the more difficult front nine in level par and sits just four strokes off the lead approaching the weekend.
Seamus Power was three-over for the day through the fourth, where he recorded a double bogey, but the Waterford man staged a brilliant recovery from there with a birdie at the seventh, four more from 10 through 13 and two more at 15 and 18.
He finished alongside Harrington on four-under.
Robin Dawson squeaked through to the weekend, just above the cut on one-under, but level par just wasn't enough to keep either Paul Dunne or Paul McBride around for longer.
Others to fall foul of the demarcation line were Conor O'Rourke (+3), Graeme McDowell (+4), Michael McGeady (+5), Gavin Moynihan and Darren Clarke (both +6).
Headfort's Brian Casey was two-over for the tournament through the 17th at the time of writing.