Round two leader Ewen Ferguson at the DP World Tour event supported by Aviv Clinics in Northern Ireland this week. Image Credit: Supplied

Ewen Ferguson retained the lead in the 2022 ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by Aviv Clinics with a level par round at the Massereene Golf Club on day two.

The Scot, after setting a course record nine under par 61 on the opening day at Galgorm Castle Golf Club, fought off the challenge of Spaniard Borja Virto, who switched to Galgorm for his second round.

This week’s event in Northern Ireland is tri-sanctioned by the DP World Tour, Ladies European Tour and LPGA Tour, with separate men and women’s tournaments being played on the same two courses at the same time and for two equal prize funds of $1.5 million each.

Halfway cut

Players completed 18 holes at Galgorm Castle and 18 at Massereene Golf Club over the first two days before a halfway cut — to the top 60 and ties — was made in each tournament, with a further cut after 54 holes to the top 35 players and ties.

American Amanda Doherty, playing at Massereene on day two, also retained the lead in the 2022 version of the women’s tournament with a second successive round of 67 to go to 11 under par, keeping one shot ahead of fellow American Lauren Coughlin and Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen, who both finished on 10 under.

Ferguson found the switch to Massereene tougher than Galgorm Castle and had to contend with Virto, who claimed the lead at one point before a poor seventh hole saw him slip to eight under and a shot off the leader.

Virto, who started on the tenth tee, saw his chance of the halfway lead slip away on the par three seventh when his tee shot ended up in the water and he took a double bogey five to trail Ferguson by one shot.

Bad luck

A two-way tie for third saw Sweden’s Felix Palson alongside Italian amateur Filippo Celli on seven under, with Scotland’s Connor Syme a stroke further back.

Ferguson said a little more luck on the greens had seen him score lower on day one.

He said: “I missed a couple of putts that I had been making yesterday. They were good putts but kind of lipping out and yesterday they were kind of lipping in.

“You walk onto the next tee and when they lip in you feel amazing, and (when) you walk onto the next tee and they have just missed you feel a bit flatter. It was still a good day overall.”

Different challenge

Ferguson admitted changing courses presented a different challenge.

He said: “I was just trying to play my best and do what I could do. I think level par is still a decent score.

“I will just try to have fun (on day three) and try to get myself in contention. Being in contention is great fun and if you perform under pressure it’s a really good feeling. I’ve put myself in a good position again and I will see what I can do.”

UAE-based players in the hunt

Other scores of interest include: Dubai-based Olympian Renato Paratore of Italy is in tied sixth after rounds of 67 and 68, with 2016 Challenge Tour winner at Al Hamra Golf Club in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, England’s Jordan Smith, currently 12th in the DP World Tour Rankings, on the same score with rounds of 68 and 67,

American John Catlin, winner of the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open with rounds of 67 and 69, is in tied ninth with Abu Dhabi-based Englishman David Horsey tied 34th with rounds of 70 and 69.