Peter Uihlein and Robert Rock grabbed a share of the lead at the Irish Open Friday at nine-under par through 36 holes.
The joint leaders are two shots clear of the closest competitors at Maynooth's Carton House Golf Club, headlined by two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal.
Northern Ireland's three recent major champions weren't so fortunate. World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke all missed the cut. The same goes for superstar Padraig Harrington—a three-time major winner himself.
Golf columnist Scott Michaux was disappointed by the poor play:
Below is a look at the top of the leaderboard after the first 36 holes of action in one of the European Tour's most prestigious tournaments. For complete scores, head over to the Tour's official website.
|T1||Peter Uihlein ||67-68 ||-9|
|T1 ||Robert Rock ||69-66 ||-9|
|T3 ||Jose Maria Olazabal ||68-69 ||-7|
|T3||Oscar Floren ||66-71 ||-7|
|T3||Joost Luiten ||67-70||-7|
|T3 ||Ricardo Santos ||71-66 ||-7 |
|T8||Raphael Jacquelin ||69-69 ||-6|
|T11||Anders Hansen ||69-70 ||-5 |
|T11||Thomas Bjorn ||68-71 ||-5 |
Note: All statistics and other information, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of EuropeanTour.com.
Uihlein is an American expat who has opted to begin his professional career on the other side of the pond. That has not only broadened his horizons, but it's also forced him to acclimate his game to all different types of courses around Europe.
It's paying off this week so far, that's for sure. Uihlein has already won the Madeira Islands Open in May and has another fourth place finish to his credit.
However, it could have been an even better round Friday than the four-under 68 Uihlein posted, as he was only one-under par on the par-fives.
And forgive me for this, but Rock was rock-solid in Round 2, matching the second lowest score of the day with a 66. The hatless Englishman carded three birdies at his first five holes, beginning on the No. 10 tee.
That was supplemented by a wonderful eagle at the par-five fourth when Rock struck a beautiful fairway metal onto the green of the 600-plus yard hole and converted the subsequent putt.
Winning hasn't come so easy for the 36-year-old Rock, but he's won in both of the previous two years in style. Last season at the Abu Dhabi Championship, Rock beat out the likes of McIlroy and Tiger Woods by one and two shots, respectively, down the stretch.
Both of these players shouldn't stray far from the top on the weekend, but let's take a closer look at the other developing storylines from the Irish Open at the Colin Montgomerie-designed venue:
Apparently, Olazabal has plenty left in the tank at age 47. There is almost no need for him to continually prove himself since he's already in the World Golf Hall of Fame, but his love for the game is still evident.
Olazabal fired a three-under 69 and is looking to add a second trophy from this event, which he won all the way back in 1990.
Although the most recent Team Europe Ryder Cup captain is long past his golfing prime, it's not showing in the Irish Open. A lot of trouble lurks with the plethora of sand traps, tight fairways and blustery conditions, but a veteran such as Olazabal can steadily navigate past such obstacles.
The best finishes Olazabal has had this season are T-17 and T-21, but he's vying to fare far better than that if this type of form keeps up.
Significant Superstar Struggles
A truly perplexing 2013 season for McIlroy continues. The same prodigy who won both major tour money lists last year hasn't even notched a victory thus far. Just when it appears he has a breakthrough, a result such as this follows.
In the first round, 34 putts hampered McIlroy's efforts to be anywhere near the lead, and he couldn't get anything going in carding an even-par 72 to miss the cut.
Clarke won the British Open in 2011 but hasn't really done much since. He carded a second straight 75 to be left out of the weekend by a long shot.
The only player from this major championship trio to card an under-par round at Carton House was McDowell, but he followed his 71 Thursday with a 74 that featured three bogeys on his back nine.
It is yet again another troublesome result for Harrington, too, whose tweaks to his game haven't paid dividends since his last major win at the 2008 PGA Championship.
Shane Lowry Making Himself at Home
As EuropeanTour.com reported earlier in the week, the Ireland native Lowry frequently plays Carton House to practice when he's not on the traveling grind.
The innate familiarity is serving Lowry well thus far. When his pedestrian round—which began with two bogeys at the first three holes—threatened to drop him substantially behind the pace, he rallied by birdieing Nos. 17 and 18 to finish with a two-under 70 and post seven-under overall.
Lowry beat his friend McIlroy at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier in 2013 and also advanced far in the Volvo World Match Play Championship on the European Tour.
Expectations inevitably inflate when a player is playing his home course—particularly for his native land's championship. That hasn't fazed Lowry, though, and he's in magnificent position entering the final two rounds.
The 2009 Irish Open was captured by Lowry when he ironically beat Rock in a playoff, per Golf Ireland's Twitter.
At that time, Lowry was only an amateur, so there's little reason to think he won't be a factor come Sunday.