GRAHAM FOX faces an uphill battle to retain his Scottish PGA Championship title over his home course at West Kilbride – despite improving on his first-round score.

Fox followed up his opening-day score of 70 with a two-under-par 69 in Wednesday’s second round – but he now lies eight shots behind joint pace-setters Alastair Forsyth and Paul O’Hara.

On a sun-soaked second day on the Ayrshire coast, the pacesetting duo finished on 11-under aggregates of 131, with Craig Lee lurking menacingly just a shot behind.

Forsyth, the leader after round one, cemented his place at the top with a five-under 66 while O’Hara, the national champion in 2019, bolstered his title tilt with a neatly assembled 65.

With just one bogey in two rounds, O’Hara is certainly in fine fettle and he made hay while the sun shone.

A bag of six birdies burnished a tidy card as the reigning Tartan Tour No 1 found himself in familiar territory at the sharp end of affairs.

“It was a good day for scoring and I was pleased to take advantage,” said O’Hara, who has three second place finishes in the Scottish PGA Championship as well as a win.

“I’m really looking forward to the next couple of days. It’s like a Sky Sports marquee group on the television with big Al and Craig.

"They are two great former main Tour players and I’ll need to be at my best.”

After a slow start to his second circuit, Forsyth injected his round with fresh vigour with a mighty putt of some 50 feet on the seventh for an eagle. 

He struggled to make any more inroads, however, until a late thrust which saw him pick up three shots on his last five holes.

A birdie chance spurned on the last from six-feet left him reflecting on what might have been. All in all, though, it was a good day at the office.

“It ended up better than it was looking early on,” admitted Forsyth, who won the national crown back in 2000.

“It’s good to be in the mix. If you are going to win at this level you have to beat the likes of Paul and Craig.

"You have a good idea who will feature at the top in these events. If you finish ahead of Paul there’s a good chance you’ll win.”

Lee will have something to say about that, of course, and he upped the ante in his bid for a maiden Scottish PGA title with a fine 65 for 10-under.

The former DP World Tour campaigner is also eyeing the Tartan Tour’s Order of Merit crown this season and the Stirling man is ready to come out all guns blazing in his quest for a double whammy of successes.

“It could be a birdie fest over the next two days,” said Lee. 

Despite carving out six birdies, Lee was left to mull over the ones that got away.

“It’s funny to say you’re disappointed with a 65 but I missed lots of chances and it really could’ve been much better,” he added. 

“I’m being pretty aggressive with the driver and that’s setting me up nicely but I’m just not making the most of that just now. Hopefully, it can change over the next couple of days.”

Deeside’s Sam Kiloh is still very much in the mix on nine-under after a purposeful 65 that started with three birdies in his first four holes. 

Kiloh has a three-shot cushion over Gavin Hay, who is fifth on six-under, with Aberdeen veteran Scott Henderson a shot further back on five-under.

Fox's two-round aggregate of 139 leaves him tied for 14th place with Patrick Walker of Swanston Golf Club and West LInton's Gareth Wright.