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Michael Hoey keen to hold his nerve as he has swing at Sicily joy

 

By Phil Casey

Belfast's Michael Hoey is right in the mix after two rounds of the European Tour's Rocco Forte Open in Sicily after backing up his fantastic 10-under-par first round with another solid second.

The Ulsterman added a three-under-par round of 68 to his sublime 61 to put himself in joint second place at the tournament at 13 under par, two shots off leader Alvaro Quiros.

Hoey, 38, is currently battling for a full European Tour card having lost his at the start of the season, and if he can keep up this form then he will stand an excellent chance of doing so.

The former Walker Cup star made the turn in three-under having carded four birdies and one bogey, but his momentum stalled on the back nine where he had to settle for level after adding another two birdies but also another two bogeys.

"It was hard towards the end, I used up a lot of adrenaline yesterday," Hoey commented, referring to Thursday when he came close to recording the European Tour's first ever round of 59.

"I hadn't been in that position for a long time, to feel nervous on the golf course. I was a little bit tired on the last seven or eight holes.

"I got it in, in kind of level par the last few holes which was decent and it was tricky in the wind. It's all about the next two days, I'm in a good position."

Hoey is due to be in one of the final two groups heading out in today's third round, potentially with Quiros, the man he is chasing down.

The big-hitting Spaniard birdied his final four holes to add a 64 to his opening 63 and reach 15 under par, two shots ahead of overnight joint-leaders Hoey and Sebastian Soderberg, who both shot 61 on Thursday and 68 yesterday.

After winning twice on the European Tour in 2011, Quiros was ranked 21st in the world, but after trying to make swing changes he has gradually slipped to his current position of 703rd and missed 15 cuts in 23 events last season.

"It's a very nice situation for me, it's a long time since I've had the opportunity," Quiros said. "My game today was a little bit worse than yesterday, but my putting on the back nine was unbelievable so I'm very happy with it.

"Sometimes I've been very greedy trying to force myself into a better score when the game wasn't good and today I have to be proud of myself.

"(Starting with) eight consecutive pars was a typical situation for me to blow my mind because I'm not shooting low, and today was a big step forward, mentally speaking, in trying to be patient."

Quiros has committed to playing mainly on the Challenge Tour this season in an effort to regain his European Tour card and added: "I'm not going to fix my situation in one day or in one tournament, so hopefully I can keep working, still adding good rounds and at the end of the year come back to the Tour."

Further down the field, former Masters champion Mike Weir made his first halfway cut since November 2014 after a battling display in Sicily.

The Canadian recovered from a triple-bogey on the 18th - his eighth hole of the day - to card a second round of 70 at Verdura Golf Club and finish right on the cut mark of five under par.

That was 10 shots off the halfway lead held by Quiros, but simply making the weekend for the first time in 34 events represents a step in the right direction for the former World No.3.

Weir, who has slumped to 1,907th in the rankings, has struggled for form ever since undergoing elbow surgery in 2011 and announced in July 2015 that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence from golf for family reasons.

The left-hander does not have any status on the PGA Tour and missed the cut at Augusta National last month for the sixth time in the last seven years, while he also made early exits from European Tour events in Morocco and Portugal.

After an opening 67, Weir started his second round with birdies on the 12th and 16th before running up a triple-bogey seven on the 18th.

However, the 47-year-old bounced back to record three birdies and a solitary bogey on his back nine to qualify for the final two rounds.

England's David Horsey and South African Zander Lombard lie three shots off the pace after rounds of 66 and 68 respectively, with 2011 Sicilian Open winner Raphael Jacquelin another stroke back alongside Mark Foster and Jose-Filipe Lima.

Jacquelin's 62 was the joint-lowest round of the day and the same score from American Julian Suri remarkably saw him make the cut on five under after a 13-shot improvement on his opening 75.

Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who won the Irish Open at Royal Portrush in 2012, also made the cut on a respectable score of six under par.

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