Erik Van Rooyen finished birdie-birdie to post a course-record 65 and secure a share of the halftime lead at the 2018 Irish Open.
Van Rooyen finished his record-setting day at Ballyliffin Golf Club with eight birdies against a single bogey en rout to a two-day score of 8-under par, and a T1 spot alongside Aussie Ryan Fox and Frenchman Matthieu Pavon.
“I hit it beautifully tee-to-green all day, holing a few nice putts including a long one on my back nine as well, so I’m playing very nicely,” said Van Rooyen, who owns three top 10s this season.
“It’s exciting being here. I love links golf even though I haven’t played much, I’m fairly new to it but I absolutely love it.”
Fox, the overnight leader, followed up a day-one 67 with a 69 to maintain a hold on the pole position.
“It’s probably my first time in one of these [Rolex Series] events being right up there, probably leading or going to be in the last group which is going to be a nice experience tomorrow,” said Fox.
“I’ll just see what happens tomorrow. Looks like we’re going to get another good day so I’m looking forward to it.”
Pavon, meanwhile, rode a hot flatstick to a second-straight 68 and a share of the marquee.
“The putter was pretty warm and it kept me in touch with the scorecard and then I started playing well on the back nine,” said Pavon, whose round was highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 4th hole.
“I love the crowd, the atmosphere of those Irish people and Scottish people. Like last year, the guys are so great out there, and keep pushing on every holes and I will enjoy that for two more days.”
CHASERS AT BALLYLIFFIN
One behind was Swede Joakim Lagergren who offset a pair of bogeys with six birdies en rout to a 68 and a two-day 7-under par.
Danny Willett was one further back at 6-under par following a second-day 70. The 2016 Masters winner sits T5 alongside South African Zander Lombard (68) and Sam Horsfield (69).
Lee Westwood was at 5 under, a shot clear of South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Scot Russell Knox and American Peter Uihlein.
Tournament headliner and host, Rory McIlroy, finished with a 73 to sit T30 at 1-under par.
The cut line was 1-over 145 with 76 players making it to the weekend. Edoardo Molinari appeared safe after a hole-in-one on the par-3 14th hole to reach level par, but the Italian veteran made a costly double bogey on 18 to miss the cut by a shot at 2-over par.
IRISH OPEN: TOP 10
1. Ryan Fox -8 (-3)
1. Matthieu Pavon -8 (-4)
1. Erik van Rooyen -8 (-7)
4. Joakim Lagergren -7 (-4)
5. Danny Willett -6 (-2)
5. Zander Lombard -6 (-4)
5. Sam Horsfield -6 (-3)
8 Lee Westwood -5 (-1)
9. Peter Uihlein -4 (-2)
9. Russell Knox -4 (-3)
9. Christiaan Bezuidenhout -4 (-4)
IRISH OPEN: LEADERS’ STATS
– Ryan Fox – 327.8
– Matthieu Pavon – 308.5
– Erik Van Rooyen – 306.0
– Ryan Fox – 12/28, 43.3%
– Matthieu Pavon – 15/28, 53.3%
– Erik Van Rooyen – 16/28, 57.1%
GREENS IN REGULATION
– Ryan Fox – 27/36, 75.0%
– Matthieu Pavon – 23/36, 63.9%
– Erik Van Rooyen – 25/36, 69.4%
TOP SHOT: MOLINARI’s HOLE-IN-ONE
On the par-3 14th hole, Italy’s Edoardo Molinari holes it from 200 yards to reach level-par.
EXIT QUESTION: MATTHIEU PAVON
Q: Eagle was the highlight. Tell us about that?
PAVON: “It comes perfectly at the right moment. I had an 8-iron shot and the wind was a little bit against and from the right. I tried to hit it the highest as I can because the green is pretty firm and I hit it perfectly and I holed a four metres putt just right.”
Credit: Getty Images, European Tour Media, Fastscripts