Scott Jamieson recovered from a nightmare start to his second round to claim a share of the halfway lead in the BMW PGA Championship, an event he labelled the “pinnacle” of his season.
Jamieson followed a bogey on the first with a double bogey on the third, but birdied seven of the next nine holes - including four in a row from the ninth - to add a 70 to his opening 67.
That left the 33-year-old from Glasgow on seven under par alongside Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and Italy’s Francesco Molinari on top of a crowded leaderboard, with Germany’s Max Kieffer a shot behind. Open champion Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Branden Grace and 2015 winner Byeong Hun An were a shot further back on five under, while Masters runner-up Justin Rose eagled the last to make the cut.
Shane Lowry fell back the field and is five shots off the pace after adding a 74 to Thursday’s 68.
Jamieson narrowly retained his card in each of the last two seasons by finishing 106th and 107th on the Race to Dubai, but can afford to focus on securing a second European Tour title after two top-four finishes in 2017.
The £5million renovation of the West Course has helped persuade Stenson to make just his second appearance in the event since 2010, a stark contrast to Westwood’s 24th visit in succession.
“It’s nice to play a golf course where you’ve got to use your brain,” said Westwood, who was second in 2000 and 2011. “I’ve played patient and sensible golf and approached it a bit like a major - playing away from certain pins, taking irons off some tees.
“It’s hurting golf going to courses that are 7,600 yards, where the caddies can just hand you the driver on every hole and walk forward. I like the way the course is set up this week, nobody can have any excuses. The course is really fair and consistent, you don’t get too many bad lies or bounces. For a few years it drove people mad.
Ian Poulter labelled his putting “pathetic” despite a 69 which was a seven-shot improvement on his opening round, the 41-year-old carding 16 pars, one birdie and an eagle on the 12th to finish one over par.
That was a total matched by former Masters champion Danny Willett after a 73, while Rose and defending champion Chris Wood finished a shot further back.
Rose looked set to miss the cut after shanking a fairway bunker shot out of bounds on the sixth to run up a quadruple-bogey, but produced a grandstand finish with an eagle from 10 feet on the 18th.
McIlroy suffered the problem in the off-season after extensive practice as he tried to decide on new equipment following former supplier Nike’s withdrawal from the market. It flared up as he lost a play-off to Graeme Storm at the BMW SA Open in January and he did not feature again until the WGC-Mexico Championship in March, where he finished four shots behind winner Dustin Johnson.
McIlroy then played three further events before feeling discomfort at the Players Championship and undergoing an MRI scan, after which he was advised to take a “conservative approach” with his recovery. That resulted in the four-time major winner pulling out of this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, an event he won in 2014, and now the Memorial Tourney at Muirfield Village.
The Hermitage star, in danger of missing the halfway cut after an opening 77, recorded a bogey-free second round posting a six under par 67 to maintain an outside chance of lifting the crown.
That gave him a 36-hole aggregate of 144 albeit some eight strokes adrift of of leader South African Kyle McClatchie who goes into the third round one ahead of Craig Ross and Jack Singh Brar.
While Lester was surging up the leaderboard Robin Dawson who had led the Irish charge was going the other way. Inexplicably Dawson from Tramore, who fired a 68 on Thursday, slumped to an 83 yesterday and from being just two strokes off the pace actually missed the cut.
Alongside Lester on 144 is Whitehead’s John Ross Galbraith who had four birdies and four bogeys in his 73 yesterday while Alex Gleeson is on 147 and both Kevin LeBlanc and Colin Fairweather on 148. But spearheading the Irish charge is Naas golfer Conor O’Rourke on 143 after a 72 yesterday- regrettably he finished with a bogey six.
Tiarnon McLarnon just made the cut on 150.
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