McGrane ducks worst of weather to stay in mix
FIGHTING Irishmen Damien McGrane and Shane Lowry both go into the weekend at the Czech Open with high hopes of clinching a second victory on the European Tour.
McGrane managed to complete a one-under-par 71 before a second storm descended on the Prosper Golf Resort in Celadna yesterday, bringing the day's proceedings to a premature halt with 26 players still on the course.
This spirited effort moved the Kells man to six-under, just one off the lead shared by Jose Manuel Lara of Spain and Sweden's Mikael Lundberg.
Lundberg and Lowry were among those still playing when thunder and lightning brought down the curtain.
The Clara man was one-under for the 17 holes he played yesterday and five-under for the tournament at the end of a long and eventful day.
Paul McGinley also harboured high hopes of grabbing his first top-10 finish in 28 months after compiling a splendid 71 in the driving winds that whistled across this undulating course yesterday morning.
The Dubliner (44) played expertly in difficult conditions as he swept to four-under-par for the tournament.
"I think under par was a very good score this morning," he said afterwards. "Some golf courses lend themselves to playing in the wind, but this one probably doesn't.
"There's lot of elevation changes and a lot of water, plus we didn't really get any help from the wind, because it seemed to be blowing across us most of the time."
Three-under for his second round with three to play, McGinley's only hiccups came at seven, after he'd short-sided himself in the front trap, and eight, where he hit a poor chip and putt from greenside rough.
Though a violent thunderstorm forced the afternoon starters, including Peter Lawrie, McGrane and Lowry, off the course for an hour and 40 minutes, the wind had blown itself out by the resumption, leading to ideal playing conditions.
Still, first-round leader Lawrie was unable to find the same rhythm he had enjoyed during Thursday's 66 as a 75 sent him tumbling into a share of 13th on three-under.
McGrane (40) hit plenty of classy shots and, when needed, also showed the dogged qualities which have helped him amass nearly €4m in eight years on Tour.
After picking up a sweet birdie on the first, McGrane dropped shots at two and three as the storm thundered in. One-over through the turn after another birdie at the long fifth and a dropped shot at seven, the Meath man really ripped into top gear on the back nine.
Though he landed just two more birdies, at 10 and 12, the 2008 China Open champion made a host of chances and had high hopes of keeping up the good work at the weekend.
"I got the best of the weather," he agreed. "While 71 was a reasonable performance, I felt I played a bit better than that, but it was a funny day out there, so I'll take it.
"I hit a lot of good shots coming in and missed all the putts. But I hit good putts and once the ball is trying to fall into the hole, I'm happy enough to wait for them to start falling. I'm right in there."
Lowry truly showed the pluck of the Irish as he rebounded from a couple of setbacks in the middle of his back nine. After a frustrating bogey out of a greenside bunker at 12, for example, the Clara man holed out for a fantastic birdie at 13.
Then he holed out from 25 feet for a bogey at 15 after scuffing his tee shot left and into the water at this treacherous, downhill par-three. Impressive stuff indeed from the 24-year-old.
The Czech Open,
Live, Sky Sports 3, 12.30