Northern Ireland Open: Tournament ambassador Michael Hoey makes Friday cut

Michael Hoey
Michael Hoey finished his round believing he was going to miss the cut
Galgorm Resort & Spa Northern Ireland Open second-round leaderboard
-8 R Kellett (Sco), T Murray (Eng) ; -7 L Nemecz (Aut); -6 V Riu (Fra), M Nixon (Eng), T Linard (Fra), E Cuartero Blanco (Spa) Selected others: -4 E Goya (Arg), B Neil (Sco); -2 D McGrane (Ire), S Thornton (Ire), C Sharvin (NI), C Koepka (USA), N O'Briain (Ire); -1 M Hoey (NI); Level C Sordet (Fra); +1 J Hood (NI) am, C Moriarity (Ire); +2 C Selfridge (NI), G Moynihan (Ire), G Hurley (Ire); +4 D McElroy (NI); +6 C Fairweather (NI) am; +9 O Wilson (Eng)
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Tournament ambassador Michael Hoey avoided a fourth missed cut in five years at the Northern Ireland Open after firing a 72 on Friday.

Hoey's one-under-par total left him on the early projected cut mark but as the afternoon players began to struggle, the Belfast man's prospects improved.

"I think I am going to miss out by one," said Hoey, 38, after his morning round before conditions became tougher.

Scotland's Ross Kellett and England's Tom Murray lead on eight under.

Kellett recovered from an opening bogey 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 on Friday, with France's Thomas Linard, Englishman Matthew Nixon, Dutchman Darius Van Driel, Frenchman Victor Riu 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.

Irish challenge losing momentum

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 Cormac Sharvin, Damien McGrane, Simon Thornton and Neil O'Briain were the leading home players on two under.

Galgorm Castle amateur Jordan Hood, after his impressive opening 69, missed out on the cut mark by one shot after a 74 left him one over.

Gavin Moynihan, leading Irishman at last month's Irish Open, and Castledawson man Chris Selfridge suffered early exits after both finished two over.

Local Ballymena man Dermot McElroy also missed the out after a second successive 73 left him on four over - the same mark as Derry man Ruaidhri McGee, who shot a disappointing 75.

Chase Koepka
Chase Koepka finished the day on two under after a second-round 69

Koepka six off pace

Hoey's playing partner Chase Koepka, the brother of US Open champion Brooks Koepka, survived into the weekend after a 69 left him on two under but the casualties included 2008 European Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson who was near the bottom of the field on nine over after adding a 74 to his opening 77.

Koepka is the leading player in the field in the Challenge Tour rankings, with him occupying ninth spot in the Road to Oman money list.

After the top 60 and ties go through to the third round, there will be a further cut on Saturday evening with the leading 24 players going through to the new-format shootout conclusion on Sunday.

This will see the leading 24 playing a series of six-hole stroke play matches all the way through to the final.

Almost certainly a play-off will be required on Saturday evening, the determine the 24 qualifiers and the leading eight with earn a bye in the first round of matches on Sunday.