Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Open: Kellett and Murray share halfway lead

Ross Kellett and Tom Murray share the halfway lead of the Galgorm Resort & Spa Northern Ireland Open in Ballymena.

Out in the morning, Scotland’s Kellett played in rain reminiscent of his native highlands, his birdie-birdie finish taking him to eight-under-par after an impressive five-under second round 66.

Murray’s round, by contrast, was mostly in sunshine, though a stiffer breeze had picked up in the afternoon, but the Englishman’s second successive 67 took him into a share of the lead at Galgorm Castle.

Kellett finished in the top 20 on his last outing in Sweden two weeks ago and he acknowledged that, with the European Challenge Tour season now beyond the halfway point, he needs a strong result soon.

“I played pretty solid, in horrible conditions,” said the 29-year-old. “It was blustery, cold, showers on and off – Scottish conditions you might say, and it always seems to be like this at some stage in the week when you come here.

“I was up there in Sweden but didn’t quite have the Sunday I wanted after a 64 on the Saturday – I took a lot from that, despite some poor play on the Sunday, and I had a week off last week so I came here refreshed and ready to go again.

“I’ve not really been up there that much this year and there’s no shying away from the fact that we’re past halfway in the season now and it’s the same for everybody, we all need to get going.

“I’ve had some alright results but no sparkling results so I definitely need to kick on from here and make sure I can look forward to the rest of the season.”

Leading the tournament will not mean much, however, come Saturday evening, when a second cut will see only the top 24 make it through to ‘Shootout Sunday’, a ground-breaking new format for this event.

A series of head-to-head knock-out stroke play matches will ultimately decide the winner, with the top eight after the third round seeded straight through into the second round of Sunday matches, and Kellett is a supporter of the innovation being shown by the organisers this week.

“It’s different but it’s a nice format, mixing it up a bit, which is great,” he said. “There’s not a lot you can do until after 54 holes and just take it from there – it’s a nice place to be at the top of the leaderboard but at the moment it doesn’t really mean overly much and tomorrow is a new day.

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