Irish Open: Eddie Pepperell and Lee Westwood in contention at halfway
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 05/07/19 8:24pm
Eddie Pepperell and Lee Westwood are flying high at the halfway stage of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open as Padraig Harrington endured a tough second day at Lahinch.
Zander Lombard holds a one-shot lead heading into the weekend after adding a 67 to his opening 64 to close on nine under, while Pepperell continued to shine in his first event since the PGA Championship in mid-May as he also fired a 67 to claim outright second ahead of Westwood, Abraham Ancer and Jorge Campillo.
But overnight-leader Harrington slipped 20 places down the leaderboard after he struggled in the tougher, early conditions and bogeyed four of the first seven holes before rallying on the back nine to salvage a 73 - 10 shots higher than his stunning first round.
Lombard has failed to make the weekend in his last eight starts on the European Tour, but he has turned his form around on the west coast of Ireland and is now in prime position to become the first South African to win the tournament since the legendary Bobby Locke was victorious at Portmarnock, 81 years ago.
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The 24-year-old, who was sixth at Ballyliffin last year, was one over for his round before making a good two at the short eighth for the second day running, and that galvanised him for the back nine as he picked up shots at the 10th, 13th and final holes to earn the clubhouse lead.
Pepperell appeared on course to get to double-digits under par when he defied the elements in the morning wave to turn in 33 and followed a birdie at the 11th with a superb eagle at the long 12th which got him to nine under with a third of his round remaining.
The returning Eddie Pepperell exceeded his own expectations at Lahinch in his first start since mid May
But the charismatic 28-year-old, who was sidelined for six weeks with a back injury which forced him to pull out of the US Open last month, dropped his second shot of the day at the 14th and parred the last four holes to set the target in the clubhouse which was surpassed only by Lombard.
"I'm very happy with that. It's a good score, I would say, in the conditions we played in," said Pepperell afterwards. "The first six or seven holes were really quite tough and drizzly and it was hard to get a flight on the ball.
"We saw Lahinch probably a bit more the way we should see it today. It would be kind of nice to have one day here at 20mph winds just to see the score, and it would be entertaining! I'm not hitting the ball perfectly, but my short game has been feeling good, and we'll just see how the weekend goes. I have to concentrate."
Ancer also mixed five birdies with two bogeys to become the first player into the clubhouse on seven under, a score later matched by Campillo as the Spaniard - level par at the turn - enjoyed a barrage of birdies on the inward half and stormed home in 30 to return a 64 and the low round of the second day.
Westwood made it a three-way share of third after he recovered from a poor start to reel of three consecutive birdies from the seventh before picking up two more on the back nine to hand in an excellent 67.
Andy Sullivan eagled the last to cap a 66 which got him to six under along with Thorbjorn Olesen (69), while defending champion Russell Knox is one further off the pace after producing one of the shots of the day at the last - a sublime 245-yard long-iron to four feet which set up a closing eagle.
Harrington slipped out of the top 20 and looked in danger of flirting with the cut mark following his erratic first seven holes, but he halted the slide with a good run of pars as the weather improved and made his first birdie at the 13th before hitting back from a dropped shot at the next with a four at the last to return to four under.
English stars Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Wallace are also five off the lead heading into the weekend, but Tyrrell Hatton, Danny Willett and Graeme McDowell were among the players to miss out on the final 36 holes.