Stephen Gallacher is sitting in the top 20 heading into the final two rounds of the Maybank Championship after returning to form in Malaysia to end a run of three missed cuts in a row on the European Tour.
The 41-year-old bounced back from starting his second round at Royal Selangor in Kuala Lumpur with a double-bogey 6 to card a one-under 70 that left him sitting joint-18th on four-under-par.
“I played well again today,” said Gallacher, who quickly repaired that early damage with an eagle - his second of the tournament - at the par-5 third and also bagged three birdies.
“If a few rubs of the green had gone my way, I could have been sitting on seven or eight-under, so I’m starting to feel much more positive than of late.”
Thai-based Simon Yates joined Gallacher in making it to the weekend on one-under (71-70) but there were early exits for both David Drysdale (71-72) and Marc Warren (73-73) on one-over and four-over respectively.
Australian Nathan Holman doubled his one-shot overnight lead after backing up a first-round 64 with an equally solid 65.
Holman had played just 15 European Tour events coming into the new campaign but claimed a maiden win at the Australian PGA Championship in December and went on to “I think today’s round was just as good,” said the 24-year-old from Melbourne of his second circuit in the Malaysian capital.
“In the afternoon the conditions were a little bit harder and seeing your name up the top of that leaderboard can bring on some nerves but it was nice to be able to play really well and it was good fun to finish with a few birdies.
“I’ve been working hard on the putting for two weeks now, just on the alignment, and as soon as that got good it was really nice to start seeing the ball roll and holing some putts.
“After winning at home my next aim was to win a tournament overseas, so it’s great to have the chance to tick that one off the list so soon.
“Then looking further ahead, getting into the top 100 in the world rankings is a realistic aim.”
Englishman Richard Bland (66-65) is leading the chase, with his compatriot and Dubai Desert Classic winner Danny Willett (65-69) three shots further back in joint-third.
Scott Henry retained his position as the leading Scot after the opening two rounds of the Sunshine Tour’s Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt.
The 28-year-old carded six birdies in his second-day 68 on the Outeniqua course to sit joint-29th on five-under at the halfway stage.
Jamie McLeary is a shot behind after matching that birdie haul in also posting a four-under-par score on the same layout.
Bradley Neil, the third Scot in the field, was five-under for the day through 10 holes as he battled to bounce back from an opening 78.
The Blairgowrie man also birdied the 14th and 15th but they were sandwiched between a double-bogey 7 and two bogeys.
It added up to a 70 that left Neil sitting 113rd but he’s not done yet as the cut in this event is made after 54 holes.
On 13-under after a second-round 65, Frenchman Julien Gerrier leads by a shot from England’s Toby Tree (66).
World No 1 Jordan Spieth refused to write off his chances of winning the Northern Trust Open despite carding the worst opening round of his career at Riviera Country Club.
Spieth carded eight bogeys and a double bogey in an eight-over-par 79 which left him joint 142nd in the 144-man field, 16 shots behind leader Camilo Villegas.
But, having started the season by shooting 30 under par to win the Tournament of Champions by eight shots, the 22-year-old was not about to give up on an eighth PGA Tour title just yet.
“I felt like there was a couple rounds last week (in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am) where I shot two under and I was more miserable than I was today,” said Spieth, who shot 82 in the Memorial Tournament in 2013 and 80 in the Tour Championship in 2014.
“It’s just a day to forget. It’s one in, hopefully, every couple of years. I’ve shot in the 80s a couple times on tour. In the course of a career I imagine it’s going to happen. Just unfortunate when it actually does.
“It’s amazing. I feel really confident about where my game is and had a great range session. Cameron (McCormick, his coach) is here and there was nothing pinpointed that was wrong. I just played really poorly from good positions off the tee and didn’t strike the iron shots bad either. I just overdrew it when you can’t be left and I overcut it when you can’t be right. Just bad timing.”
Overnight rain had left the course playing much softer than usual and Spieth admitted he struggled to adapt to the unfamiliar conditions.
“I found it very difficult to trust the way the golf course is playing and I didn’t get off to a good start because of that,” the Masters and US Open champion added.
“I’ve never played the golf course soft. I’ve always played where you have to kind of float it on to the front of the greens and let it bounce and I just never trusted the adjustment.
“Again, it’s just a day to forget and I won’t think much on it. I’m not throwing this tournament away. I believe that I can shoot 10 under par on this golf course. There’s a nine under round right now (Villegas bogeyed his final hole) and I think I can do that. I’m not packing it in by any means.”
The good news for Spieth is that he responded well to each of his scores in the 80s, shooting 68 and 71 in the final rounds of the Memorial Tournament and Tour Championship respectively.
In contrast, Rory McIlroy was content with his opening-round effort at his first ever appearance at the event.
The world No 3 is this weekend looking to turn good performances into a first victory of the season.
McIlroy has got that bid off to a solid start in in California, carding a four-under-par 67.
The Northern Irishman birdied the first, 7th, 10th, 11th and 17th holes, before recovering from a bogey on the 15th with a birdie on the penultimate hole.
McIlroy told pgatour.com: “It was a solid round of golf. It’s my first time here competitively and I just wanted to get off to a decent start. There were a few opportunities on the back nine, which was the first nine, and I took advantage of a couple of them.
“I took advantage of a few chances I gave myself and 67 is a decent score.”
McIlroy would have been just one shot off the lead had it not been a scorching end to the round from Colombian Villegas.
Villegas struck an imperious 63 and peppered his card with birdies, including four in a row through holes five to eight. However, he blemished his round with a bogey five on the final hole which saw him miss out on the chance to equal the course record.
Chez Reavie, Bubba Watson and Luke List are tied second, with the American trio all ending the day five-under-par.
Scotland’s Martin Laird ended the day three-under and 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose was on two-under.
Tartan Tour player Graeme Brown won the Midland Golfers’ Alliance event at Scotscraig.
The Montrose Links assistant pro carded a two-under-par 68 to pip Piperdam’s Rory Tinker by a shot.