Northern Ireland Open: Emilio Cuarto Blanco on course for win as Hoey is cut adrift
Emilio Cuarto Blanco will take a slender one-shot lead into the third round of the Sphere Global Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle today.
The Spaniard shot a second successive six-under round of 65 at the County Antrim venue yesterday to reach 12 under overall, just one stroke ahead of Irishman Niall Turner and American John Hahn.
Moyola man Chris Selfridge is the leading Ulsterman in a four-strong group in joint-ninth place, four shots off the pace of the leader.
Scot Jamie McCleary and first-round leader Sebastien Gros of France are in joint-fourth together on 10 under, while former Northern Ireland Open champion Dan Huizing from Holland, Australian Scott Arnold and France's Clement Sordet share sixth place on nine under.
It was almost the perfect day for Cuarto Blanco, who did not drop a shot all afternoon, picking up four birdies to the turn and another two on the back nine.
He has only dropped a couple of shots so far throughout the tournament and they came on consecutive holes on his front nine on Thursday.
"I played really solid again today," the 24-year-old Spaniard said after his round.
"I didn't make any mistakes and felt strong mentally.
"I'm hitting good fairway shots and then off the tee I'm just staying out of trouble because on this course you can find trouble at any time."
Turner's cause was helped no end by an eagle three on the ninth hole yesterday and he added four birdies to that, dropping just a single shot with a bogey five on the par-four 11th hole.
Selfridge looked well in control of his game as he surged up the leaderboard with four birdies on the front nine yesterday.
That run was halted with back-to-back bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes, but he got those shots back with birdies at the 14th and 15th and then added another at the 17th on his way to an extremely satisfying five-under round of 66.
County Down man Simon Thornton is still in touch on seven under in a tie for 13th place. He only managed a two-under 69 which, on another day of low scoring, was a little off the pace.
So good was the play that the cut came at three under and that was extremely bad news for Michael Hoey, who for a third straight year will not be around for the weekend at the tournament he is hosting.
For a large part of the afternoon it looked as though his second one-under round of 70 would be enough to get him through to the final two days, but sadly it wasn't to be.
One other Ulsterman did make it through - Lurgan man Gareth Shaw, who shot the round of the day with his seven-under 64.
An eagle two at the par-four second hole got him on his way and he added a couple more to the turn. Birdies at 13, 14 and then 18 got him to five under for the tournament after he had started the day well outside the eventual cut mark at two over par.