The stage is set for what should be a dramatic Super Sunday Shootout for the Galgorm Resort & Spa NI Open Championship at Galgorm Castle.
Seventy three golfers have come through the first two rounds of this year’s tournament, presented by Modest! Golf, and go on to try and secure one of 24 places in the Sunday Shootout at Saturday’s third round.
There is no doub t due to play-offs to decide that field for the final day. - setting the scene for plenty of drama for spectators at the Ballymena venue.
The leading eight competitors at the close of play today will receive a bye into Sunday’s quarter-finals.
The remaining 16 will then play a stroke-play match over six holes to progress further in the knockout stages - all part of a new format for this year’s competition.
The format gives those at the bottom of the leaderboard going into today’s third round the chance to jockey for positions.
Among those to make the cut - which came in at level par - was NI Open tournament ambassador Michael Hoey - he had missed the cut on four previous times.
Hoey, one of the early morning starters, one under par total had left him close to the initial cut projection and he was somewhat disappointed after his round when he spoke to reporters.
“I think I am going to miss out by one. I would be very surprised if I make it,” said Hoey.
He missed a number of birdie opportunities again and said of his game: “It’s not far away but it’s just not quite there. It was the same yesterday just left a few shots out there .
“The swing is good but I’m just not dialled in enough.
“There are too many good players here. I know my game is good - I just need to get it all together
“I should be in a much better position after two rounds instead of trying to make the cut - I should be five or six under.”
His mood was better later once the final players came in and local fans will be delighted to see him back again today.
Scotland’s Ross Kellett and England’s Tom Murray lead on eight under.
Kellett recovered from an opening bogey as to card a 66 while Murray shot a 67.
The duo were a stroke ahead of Austria’s Lukas Nemecz, who shot a four-under-par 67 yesterday, with France’s Thomas Linard, Englishman Matthew Nixon and Spain’s Emilio Cuartero Blanco a further shot back on six under.
Cuartero Blanco fired a best-of-the-week 65 which was also matched by Denmark’s Benjamin Poke who improved 10 strokes on his opening-day score.
England’s Nick McCarthy, who shared the overnight lead with compatriot Gary King and Portugal’s Ricardo Santos, remained on five under after a level-par 71 while Argentina’s Estanislao Goya shot up to four under after a 66.
The Ieading Irishman overnight, Waterford man Gary Hurley, missed the cut after a 77 dropped him all the way back to two over as Damien McGrane, Simon Thornton and Neil O’Briain were the leading home players in the clubhouse on two under.
Ardglass man Cormac Sharvin finished on two under.
Galgorm Castle amateur Jordan Hood, after his impressive opening 69, was among the later starters but shot a three-over 74 yesterday to miss out.
Gavin Moynihan, leading Irishman at last month’s Irish Open, and Castledawson man Chris Selfridge were both facing early exits after dropping to three over along with local Ballymena man Dermot McElroy