Tramore’s Robin Dawson led from the front again as Ireland remained on track for gold medal glory at halfway in the World Amateur Team Championship at Carton House.
The 22-year-old went bogey-free for the second day running, firing five-birdies in an immaculate 68 as Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell shot 69 with John Murphy’s three-under 70 discarded.
As a result, Ireland added a nine-under-par second round total to their 10-under par opening day tally to lie tied for second with Thailand and Denmark on 19-under par, just one stroke behind pacesetters New Zealand, who shot 13-under par on the tougher Montgomerie Course yesterday.
Irish coach Neil Manchip was thrilled with their performance even if all three players felt they could have shot two or three shots lower yesterday. “What we have done today has kept us right up there in the tournament,” Manchip said. “We have shot a really decent score, and you can’t ask for more than that.
A couple of teams caught up today that didn’t have great days yesterday and vice versa. But we are right in it, right where we want to be.
“We could be five or six shots better, but we still have another 36 holes to go. As long as you are there or thereabouts with a couple of rounds to go, that’s brilliant.”
Italy’s Stefano Mazzoli showed the course was there for the taking when he birdied the first and then made eight birdies in a row from the third to get to nine under.
But even the red-hot Italian couldn’t keep it going and having gone out on in eight-under 29 and then birdied the 10th, he bogeyed the 11th and had to birdie the par five 15th to break par coming home, eventually signing for a 64 that helped the Italians move up to tied eighth on 16-under.
With the best two scores to count each day, just five strokes separate the top 10 nations on the leaderboard with the United States up to tied sixth on 17-under par with world number three Collin Morikawa shooting a seven-under 66 and world number two Justin Suh a six-under 67 on the O’Meara yesterday.
New Zealand’s Daniel Hillier shot a seven-under 65 and compatriot Denzel Ieremia a 66 on the Montgomerie Course to leave the Kiwis out in front on 21-under par.
All three Irishmen felt they could have gone lower, but Portmarnock star Purcell insisted they are not thinking about winning just yet, even if they are on track to better Ireland’s historic first bronze medal in Mexico two years ago, “Personally, it doesn’t really enter our minds,” Purcell said.
“I get a thrill from making birdies in front of a crowd, and the end outcome isn’t really in my head.”
Bandon’s John Carroll, Ireland’s non-playing captain, was more than pleased. “It was another great day for the boys,” Carroll said. “To follow up yesterday’s score with nine under today was fantastic. All the boys are playing well. I know one or two are disappointed that they haven’t shot two or three more under par.
But they have played excellent golf, and they are well in the hunt, and that’s all that matters at this stage. It’s only halftime and I know the boys are certainly looking forward to the next few days.
Dawson birdied the third, fourth, and fifth but had to wait until the 15th for his next birdie and while he had an eagle chance from just six feet after a stunning approach to the par-five 17th, he wasn’t beating himself up for missing that chance.
“I misread the putt and ended up just shoving it, but you are never going to snub a birdie on 17 because it’s a long hole,” Dawson said.
“I am happy overall. The game is solid, and I hit some nice shots out there. I didn’t have to do much. I didn’t get out of position. It’s nice when it’s like that.”
Murphy birdied four of his first six holes but then had a mixed bag on the back nine, mixing birdies at the 14th and 17th with bogeys at the 11th, 13th and 15th.
I have just got to eliminate the bad holes over the next couple of days,” the Kinsale man said. “I think I had six or seven birdies in there today, but there were too many bogeys thrown in at that.
Ireland dealt well with the pressure of playing at home, especially on the O’Meara Course where there are myriad birdie chances.
Purcell made five birdies in his first 13 holes and while he might have been a few shots lower having lipped out twice on his front nine, he felt Ireland did a good job of staying on an even keel, even if he did bogey the 15th and par his last three holes.
“I think going out today, you could have it in your head that the O’Meara should be the easier of the two courses and there should be more birdies,” Purcell said.
“So when you start making a few pars when you should be making birdies, you can get a bit down. Overall I think we did a good job at keeping our spirits up and we are still in contention, and that’s where we want to be.”