Defending champion Niall Kearney turns on the style at Irish PGA Championship

Niall Kearney
Niall Kearney

Can anyone stop Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney at the Irish PGA Championship?

The defending champion took a firm grip on proceedings at Dundalk GC on Friday carding a second round 66 to reach 13 under with 36 holes remaining.

“I was a little bit scrappy on my front nine,” said Niall, who started at the 10th.

“I played well on the back nine but parred the two par fives again, lipping out for birdie on both.

That was a bit frustrating, but I finished well with birdies at the eighth and ninth.”

The 27-year-old has an eight shot lead over Richard Kilpatrick (69) and Colm Moriarty (72) with

David Ryan (67) and David Higgins (65) a shot further back on four under par after 36 holes.

Heavy fog led to a three hour delay on Friday morning and by the close of play, 52 competitors had still to complete their second rounds, including James Quinlivan (Mullingar) who opened his campaign on Thursday with a 66. They will return early on Saturday morning to finish off, with officials planning to employ a two-tee start on Saturday afternoon in a bid to get the third round wrapped up.

Higgins, the current Order of Merit leader, carded a 65 on Friday, 10 shots better than his opening round and put his improved fortunes down to a change of putter.

“It’s an old putter, but I have done well with it in the past and I putted lovely, holed some lovely putts,” said the Waterville man who made a quick start to his round with a hat trick of birdies at the 10th, 11th and 12th, in a seven birdie haul that included no dropped shots.

In contrast, his main rival for the Order of Merit title, Eamonn Brady, fired a four over par 76 to slip back into a share of 10th on three under par.

“Everything was hard work today. I never felt like I was going to hit a good shot,” said Brady who had started the day as joint leader alongside Kearney.

“I’m still in it with two days remaining. I will try and get back on track tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the next few days.”

After the completion of the second round, a cut will be made with the top 50 and ties progressing to play the final 36 holes.

Leaders: 1 N Kearney (Royal Dublin GC) 65/66 -13; 2 J Quinlivan (Mullingar GC) 66 -6; T3 R Kilpatrick (Banbridge GC) 70/69; C Moriarty (Drive Golf Performance Ltd) 67/72 -5T5 D Ryan (Cahir Park GC) 73/67; D Higgins (Waterville) 75/65 -4

T7 J Dwyer (Ashbourne GC) 71/70; S Thornton (Team Ireland) 70/71; E Brady (Clontarf GC) 65/76 -3T10 M McDermott (Pure Golf Leopardstown) 73/70; M Staunton (Delgany GC) 70/73; R Creamer (Arklow GC) 71/72; D Mooney (Ballyliffin GC) 73/70; R Giles (Greenore GC) 73/70 -1