|Men: -11 D Brown (Eng); -5 A Fitzpatrick (Eng), A Hidalgo (Spa); –3 R Neergaard Petersen (Den), J Parry (Eng), E Pepperell (Eng), C Syme (Sco), A Otaegui (Spa): Selected others:-2 R Mansell (Eng); +1 M Jordan (Eng); +2 T McKibbin (NI); +3 E Ferguson (Scot); +4 L Canter (Eng), R MacIntyre (Scot); Missed cut: +5 J Catlin (USA), D McElroy (NI); +6 R McGee (Ire); +8 J Caldwell (NI)|
|Women: -3 M Steen (USA; -2 E Henseleit (Ger); -1 R O’Toole (USA), G Cowley (Eng), O Cowan (Ger), K Metrau (Sui); Selected others:+1 C Gainer (Eng), G Hall (Eng), B Law (Eng); +2 S Meadow (NI); +3 E K Pedersen (Den), L Maguire (Ire); +5 M MacLaren (Eng); Missed cut:+7 C Kim (USA); +8 A Doherty (USA): +10 A Van Dam (Ned), +11 J Ross (NI) am; +19 O Mehaffey|
Ireland’s Leona Maguire bemoaned “horrible” weather and spike-marked greens as she slipped six behind leader Marissa Steen in the women’s event at the World Invitational.
Maguire’s three-over-par 75 at Galgorm Castle left her three over for the tournament and sharing 32th place.
“I can’t read much into it. It’s windy. It’s miserable,” said Maguire, who is one behind compatriot Stephanie Meadow.
England’s Daniel Brown leads the men’s event by six at the halfway stage.
Twenty-eight-year-old Brown’s teeing up at the KLM Open in 2015 was his only DP World Tour appearance prior to this year but he followed up his opening seven-under-par 64 at Castlerock on Thursday with an impressive four-under-par 66 at Galgorm despite the windy conditions.
The former English Amateur champion, who hails from Northallerton in north Yorkshire, has his six-shot advantage over compatriot Alex Fitzpatrick, the brother of Matt Fitzpatrick, and Spain’s Angel Hidalgo.
The halfway leader has achieved three top-10 finishes in his first full season on the DP World Tour which includes a seventh place in the jointly-sanctioned Barbasol Championship which took place in the US last month.
Brown, who recovered from successive early bogeys at the 13th and 14th to card seven birdies, attributed his good form to a “couple of small tweaks in my putting”.
“I’m a lot more confident in my own ability after a couple big results and knowing I’ve got my card for next year,” he added.
Home hope Tom McKibbin regrouped magnificently from his dismal opening 78 at Galgorm to fire a six-under 65 at Castlerock and his two-over-par halfway total was a stroke inside the cut mark as he was the only of the 11 Irish male hopefuls to survive into the weekend.
But while McKibbin’s chances of challenging for the men’s title look remote as he sits 13 behind runaway leader Brown, both Meadow and Maguire remain in contention in the women’s event.
‘The lads wearing steel spikes doesn’t help’
Cavan’s Maguire, 28, looked thoroughly disenchanted during most of her round as she missed a series of makeable putts but insisted afterwards: “I played really great to be honest.”
“It was a tough day. It’s a horrible day. The lads wearing steel spikes doesn’t help either because the greens are a bit of mess out there,” the two-time LPGA Tour winner and world number 14 told BBC Sport Northern Ireland.
Asked about her prospects of challenging for victory, Maguire, replied: “With the draw and the two courses, it’s not really a level playing field is it and we won’t really know much until after tomorrow.”
Maguire’s sole birdie at the first was followed by an immediate dropped stroke at the par-four second and further bogeys followed at the ninth, 11th and final hole where she was unable to get up and down following a pushed short-iron third shot after missing the fairway off the tee.
After her opening 74 at Galgorm, Northern Ireland’s Meadow, third in the Women’s PGA Championship major earlier this summer, stayed in contention with a level-par 73 at Castlerock as she recovered from two bogeys in her opening three holes to have no further blemishes with birdies coming at the seventh and 15th.
American Steen, 33, has only had three top-10 finishes since beginning her LPGA career in 2015, the last of which came at the Women’s Open at Carnoustie two years ago.
The Cincinnati golfer’s one-under-par 71 at Castlerock means she leads Germany’s Esther Henseleit by one going into the third round.
America’s former Scottish Open winner Ryann O’Toole is in a group two behind the leader which also includes England’s Gabriella Cowley, Germany’s Olivia Cowan and Switzerland’s Kim Metrau while English trio Georgia Hall, Cara Gainer and Bronte Law are all four off the pace.
This is the final tournament before Europe’s Solheim Cup squad is selected next week and Cowan, who is seventh in the European Points list, in particular, would bolster her hopes of earning one of Suzann Pettersen four wild card picks by winning this weekend.
In contrast, the men’s action appears unlikely to have implications for Europe’s Ryder Cup selection.
Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, who occupies the third and final automatic qualifying place in the European Points list, missed the cut by one stroke after finishing on four over following a 76 at Castlerock, with France’s Victor Perez, seventh in the European Points list, withdrawing before hitting a ball on Friday because of illness after his opening four-over-par 74 at Galgorm.
Both MacIntyre and Perez had opted to play in Northern Ireland in the hopes of improving their positions but their decisions didn’t pay off as they head on to the two remaining qualifying events in Europe, next week’s Czech Masters and the European Masters in Switzerland.
Much like Ireland’s Seamus Power on the PGA Tour, Perez’s form has deteriorated at precisely the wrong time with him having achieved only one top-10 finish in 11 events since winning the Abu Dhabi Championship in late January.
This week’s men’s and women’s event is co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour, LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour with both winners picking up over £177,000 on Sunday evening.