Cape Town - Zander Lombard continued his love affair with links golf at the Irish Open as the South African carded a second round 67 to take the halfway lead at Lahinch Golf Club with a nine-under total, one stroke clear of Englishman Eddie Pepperell.
The 24-year-old announced himself to the golfing world last year at The Open Championship when he played his way into contention during the first three rounds at Carnoustie Golf Links, and that experience stood him in good stead during day two in the second Rolex Series event of the 2019 Race to Dubai.
"I'm so comfortable on links courses. It's never just a normal shot. It's always a little three-quarter, a little punch, judging the wind right. I've had great success on links golf in my amateur career. It's just more good feelings here and hopefully I can take them into the weekend," said Lombard.
"It's really just been hard graft the last three months. I went through a bit of a bad spell, missing a few cuts by one, and just stuck to the process of my team. It just came together at the right time, I suppose, and I'm happy with the results so far."
Pepperell, who signed for a second round 67 for an eight under total, will look to bolster his own links record as he chases a third European Tour victory and a first Rolex Series triumph.
The 28-year-old came close to winning this title at Royal County Down in 2015, losing out to Søren Kjeldsen in a three-way play-off, and also finished tied for sixth alongside Tiger Woods in last year’s Open Championship.
Lee Westwood will have his sights set on a second Rolex Series win after a three under 67 moved the Englishman to a three-way tie for third on seven under alongside Mexico's Abraham Ancer and Jorge Campillo of Spain.
The 46-year-old is part of a strong chasing pack, which includes his fellow former Ryder Cup players Andy Sullivan, Thorbjørn Olesen - both in a share of sixth on six under - and Rafa Cabrera Bello, who lies on five under alongside defending Irish Open champion Russell Knox and Cormac Sharvin of Northern Ireland, among others.
Seamus Power rallied with seven birdies in his final 12 holes to join three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington on four under - five off the pace - while Shane Lowry was two shots further back on two under par.
Leading scores from the second round of the European Tour's Irish Open at Lahinch on Friday (par 70, GBR & IRL unless stated):
131 - Zander Lombard (RSA) 64-67
132 - Eddie Pepperell 65-67
133 - Abraham Ancer (MEX) 66-67, Jorge Campillo (ESP) 69-64, Lee Westwood 66-67
134 - Andy Sullivan 68-66, Wade Ormsby (AUS) 65-69, Park Hyo-won (KOR) 65-69, Niklas Lemke (SWE) 68-66, Brandon Stone (RSA) 67-67, Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN) 65-69
135 - Robert MacIntyre 66-69, Cormac Sharvin 66-69, Sebastian Soderberg (SWE) 67-68, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) 65-70, Oliver Wilson 66-69, Paul Waring 67-68, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 69-66, Russell Knox 67-68, Rafa Cabrera-Bello (ESP) 68-67
136 - Padraig Harrington 63-73, Matt Wallace 68-68, Martin Kaymer (GER) 66-70, Tommy Fleetwood 67-69
138 - Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 71-67, Jon Rahm (ESP) 67-71, Shane Lowry 66-72
139 - Ian Poulter 66-73