Ireland's Damien McGrane made four birdies on his final seven holes to join American Anthony Kang at the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the Johnnie Walker Classic today.
The 37-year-old from Meath followed his opening 66 with a four-under-par 68 to draw level on 10 under with Kang, who carded his second consecutive 67 at The Vines Resort and Country Club.
Spain’s Ignacio Garrido, Japan’s Hiroyuki Fujita and New Zealand amateur Danny Lee all carded 68s to finish the day tied for third place on nine under in the €1.41m event which is sanctioned by the European, Asian and Australasian Tours.
First-round leader Robert Jan-Derksen was tied for the lead with Kang for much of the afternoon but a run of three consecutive bogeys saw him finish with a level-par 72 that dropped him into a tie for sixth with eight other players on eight under including world number 11 Anthony Kim (68) and John Bickerton (70).
Graeme Storm and South Africa’s David Frost shot the day’s best rounds of 64 to join Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter in an 13-way tie on seven under.
Lee Westwood recovered from a quadruple-bogey nine on the third to card a 73 that put him on five under along with Paul Casey, who shot a 68.
But world number nine Camilo Villegas of Colombia and Australian legend Greg Norman will not be around for the weekend after failing to make the cut of three under par. Villegas shot a 71 to finish on one under while Norman’s 72 saw him finish on two over.
McGrane was handily placed at six under after the opening round and improved to eight under before suffering consecutive bogeys on the ninth and 10th.
But the Irishman reeled off three straight birdies from the 12th to 14th to move back into contention and holed his sixth birdie of the day at the final hole to grab a share of top spot with Kang.
“I played better off the tee today and hit more fairways, which was helpful,” said McGrane, who recorded his maiden European Tour win at last year’s Volvo China Open.
“I’m putting quite nicely again today. I made some mistakes in the middle of the round but I played solid overall and bounced back well from those mistakes at the ninth and 10th to shoot four under.
“After a bit of a shake in the middle it was nice to bounce back with three birdies in a row and I could have birdied a lot more holes.”
Kang, the winner of last week’s Maybank Malaysian Open, moved into contention for his second consecutive win with a five-under 67 earlier in the day.
The 36-year-old began the morning three strokes behind Derksen but enjoyed an excellent start, rolling in a 25-footer for birdie on his opening hole, the 10th, and holing three straight birdies from the 13th to 15th.
He made another on the 17th to go out in 31 and after making the turn, found a fairway bunker on the third but picked up his sixth birdie of the round by blasting to within two feet of the pin.
A bogey on the 17th was the only blemish of the round but it did little to wipe the smile of the Korean-American’s face.
“The formula for shooting a good score in golf basically is driving it in the fairway and putting it on the greens and holing a lot of putts. I’ve been doing that the last three rounds in Malaysia and the first two rounds over here,” said Kang.
“If that continues onwards, it’s just a matter of whether the putts drop in or not but I’m just basically having the time of my life right now.
“I’m not making too many mistakes and I’m holing a lot of putts so it feels great to be on the golf course right now.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t think about winning two in a row but we’ve got a pretty stellar field and world-class players over here. For me to do that is statistically against the odds and pretty improbably.
“However this is a sports competition and that’s why we play.”
After failing to mount a challenge in Malaysia last week, Kang’s namesake Anthony Kim is happy to be back in contention once again.
“It’s been a good couple of days but I’m still making some careless mistakes,” said the 23-year-old.
“I think I’m just starting to knock the rust off my game so I’m happy to have a shot going into the weekend and hopefully my game will keep improving.
“I have not even been playing at home so it’s been just rust from not practising and not playing because I’ve had a couple of injuries to deal with. Now that I’m finally over that, I can start practising at full speed again.”