Words by BGB Editorial
COUNTY ANTRIM, NI: The last time Aaron Rai tasted victory on the European Tour, he did it wire-to-wire at the 2019 Hong Kong Open.
The Englishman is following a similar path this week. Leading after day one, he fired a level par 70 on Friday to take a one shot lead at the halfway stage of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
“It is so tightly bunched and doesn’t really take that much but probably a little bit of what has already happened this week.Aaron Rai
On a tough scoring day, mixed with weather delays that left a handful of players facing the prospect of an early start on Saturday to complete unfinished rounds, Rai traded four birdies with four bogies to edge clear of the chasing trio of Robert Rock – who fired a fine 67 – Joakim Lagergren – who shot the round of the day 66 and Dean Burmester (71).
Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond walked off the Galgorm Castle links with a level par 70 and will start Saturday in a share of 12th spot on two-under par, just three off the lead.
It’s the first cut for the Asian Number One since the return to action following lockdown. Jazz mixed three birdies with three bogies to remain in contention for a maiden European Tour win.
Accuracy off the tee and a warm putter were the secrets behind Rai’s success on Friday.
“It was good. A bit of a mixed bag out there but I think it is to be expected, the course played so tough,” Rai said.
“I think driving it is key around here with how thick the rough is and I think for most part I have driven it well the last few days. When I have had chances I have made a few putts as well. So probably a mix of driving and putting.
“It is so tightly bunched and doesn’t really take that much but probably a little bit of what has already happened this week.
“A few extra putts go in, also when I have been out of position, I have got up and down a few times, so it is just a couple shots being saved here and there coming into the weekend.”
Asian Tour stalwarts John Catlin, Justin Harding and Scott Hend were in the clubhouse at 3-under alongside Ewen Ferguson when darkness fell.
Jordan Smith, Toby Tree and Maverick Antcliff were on the same score but still out on the course.