Bourdy leads as McIlroy makes run
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 on Northern Ireland soil 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.
Bourdy completed an outward 31 with another birdie at the ninth. On 12 under he was two clear of Gagli and four in front of Donaldson, Orr and Ilonen. Both McIlroy and Clarke dropped a shot, however. The 23-year-old missed the green on the short sixth and at four under suddenly found himself eight back, while Clarke paid for a poor drive down the seventh and on three under was on the expected cut line.
They were still doing far better than some of the other big names. American Keegan Bradley, the USPGA champion, was one over in his first-ever tournament in Europe, Colin Montgomerie was on the same mark and last week's winner Danny Willett stood three over.
All three were running out of holes if they were to be around for the weekend - and for Willett an early exit would also leave him still searching for a spot in next month's Open. He is currently little more than £100 behind South African Richard Sterne in a mini money list that ends on Sunday - and Sterne was two under overnight.