Rory McIlroy was back in the title hunt and Darren Clarke on course to make his first cut of the year – but it was two continentals who were setting the pace on day two of the Irish Open at Royal Portrush.
France’s Gregory Bourdy, joint overnight leader with Indian Jeev Milkha Singh, eagled the 528-yard second hole and after eight holes was 11 under par.
One behind him was Italian Lorenzo Gagli, who after an opening 68 packed eight birdies into his first 13 holes, but then bogeyed the next.
McIlroy, course record holder with an amazing 61 when he was only 16, resumed outside the top 50 on two under, but birdied two of his first three holes and with six holes to play stood five under and joint 15th.
The world number two came into the event on the back of four missed cuts in five starts, but he does also have a win and three second places this season.
Clarke’s 2012 has been one long tale of woe, but after a month off to rest a groin strain the first Irish Open in the North since 1953 appeared just the boost he needed.
Not that it looked that way at the start of the tournament. He was two over after eight holes before a storm suspended play yesterday, but on the resumption he turned that into a one under 71 and after 13 holes this morning was up to four under.
Joint third on eight under were Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who after a hole-in-one on the sixth yesterday had five successive birdies from the ninth, Scot Gary Orr and Finn Mikko Ilonen.
Leading Irishman Paul McGinley was on seven under. The 45-year-old Dubliner has finished seventh, sixth and third in the past two months – all in the space of just four tournaments – and was off to a flying start in his second round.
McGinley eagled the 478-yard 10th – probably the shortest par five he will face all year – and then birdied the 12th and 13th.