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Rai of light for Aaron

English on top of Open leaderboard as stars flop

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Aaron Rai

Aaron Rai

SPORTSFILE

Aaron Rai

Aaron Rai sat top of the leaderboard after day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open as English players dominated at Galgorm Castle.

Rai, who won his maiden European Tour title in Hong Kong two years ago, set a clubhouse target of five under par after following his opening 65 with a level-par 70.

A 90-minute morning frost delay meant that 27 players were unable to finish their second rounds on Friday, with Rai's fellow Englishmen Toby Tree and Jordan Smith and Australian Maverick Antcliff best placed of those with holes remaining to snatch the halfway lead.

Birdie

Tree and Smith were three under for the week through 14 and 15 holes respectively, with another Englishman in Robert Rock in the clubhouse on four under alongside South Africa's Dean Burmester and Sweden's Joakim Lagergren.

Antcliff was three under for both his round and the week with eight holes left to play.

Rai was one of only two players to card bogey-free opening rounds but immediately dropped a shot on the first.

He regained a share of the lead with a birdie at the third and converted from four feet at the seventh after an excellent tee shot.

The 25-year-old bogeyed the eighth and ninth but recovered with a gain at the 10th.

Despite a late bogey on the 17th, Rai holed a 25-footer for birdie on the last to remain five under.

"It was good," said Rai. "A bit of a mixed bag out there but I think it is to be expected, the course played so tough.

"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."

Home favourites Padraig Harrington, and Open champion Shane Lowry, both look set to miss the cut.

Ryder Cup captain Harrington carded a five-over 75 to lie six over, with former winner Lowry seven over for the week after a 72.

"It is a pity, going to be one too many by the looks of it," said Harrington.

"I played a lot better, didn't take my chances early on and then got some swirling winds and didn't chip very well, so I played a lot better than the score but these things happen."