Dublin - Erik van Rooyen, Matthieu Pavon and Ryan Fox took a share of the halfway lead at the Irish Open on Friday, as tournament host Rory McIlroy slipped to seven shots off the pace.
New Zealander Fox had led overnight and signed for a three-under-par 69 to post a two-round total of eight-under, with world number 199 Pavon carding a second successive 68, including a 50-foot birdie putt on the seventh hole, his 16th.
"The putter was pretty warm and it kept me in touch with the scorecard and then I started playing well on the back nine," said the 25-year-old Pavon.
"I love the crowd, the atmosphere of those Irish people and Scottish people. Like last year, the guys are so great out there, and keep pushing on every holes and I will enjoy that for two more days."
South Africa's Van Rooyen made it a trio atop the leaderboard late in the day as two straight birdies to finish capped a magnificent second round of 65, the best of the day.
"I'll just see what happens tomorrow. Looks like we're going to get another good day so I'm looking forward to it," said Van Rooyen, who is looking for a first European Tour title.
Four-time major champion McIlroy was one of the early starters and struggled to find top form, making four bogeys to drop back to one-under for the tournament.
"I've just got to keep plugging away and giving myself some opportunities and hope some will drop," McIlroy told Sky Sports. "Wish I was a little bit closer."
The Northern Irishman was joined on that mark by world number five Jon Rahm, after the big-hitting Spaniard bounced back from a disappointing opening day with a three-under 69 to not only make the cut, but also set up a potential weekend charge.
Former Masters champion Danny Willett is only two strokes off the pace on six-under, one behind Sweden's Joakim Lagergren, as the Englishman looks to end a miserable run of form that has seen him plummet to 442nd in the world rankings.
Leading second-round scores in the Irish Open at Ballyliffin golf course in County Donegal, northwest Ireland, on Thursday (GBR & IRL unless stated, par-72):
136 - Ryan Fox (NZL) 67-69, Matthieu Pavon (FRA) 68-68, Erik van Rooyen (RSA) 71-65
137 - Joakim Lagergren (SWE) 69-68
138 - Danny Willett 68-70, Zander Lombard (RSA) 70-68, Sam Horsfield 69-69
139 - Lee Westwood 68-71
140 - Peter Uihlein (USA) 70-70, Russell Knox (SCO) 71-69, Christiaan Bezuidenhout (RSA) 72-68
141 - Dean Burmester (RSA) 71-70, Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN) 72-69, Matthew Nixon 72-69, Raphael Jacquelin (FRA) 71-71, Jorge Campillo (ESP) 70-71, Ashley Chesters 68-73, Yusaku Miyazato (JPN) 69-72, Chris Wood 70-71
143 - Rory McIlroy 70-73, Jon Rahm (ESP) 74-69