Simon Thornton fired a six under 66 and Ballymena’s Chris Devlin a seven under 64 as scoring turned red-hot at all four venues in the third round of the European Tour Qualifying School Second Stage in Spain.
Royal County Down man Thornton moved up nine places to grab a share of the lead at El Saler in Valencia on six under par as Waterville’s David Higgins moved up three sports to tied seventh despite shooting a three under 69.
Gareth Shaw’s two under 70 moved the Lurgan talent up nine places to 22nd on two over at the same venue as Ruaidhri McGee’s hopes suffered a serious blow with a 74 dropping him to 36th.
Only 17 players from each venue are guaranteed their places in the Final Stage later this month and play-offs will be necessary to decide alternate status for the rest before the exact number of qualifiers is decided following the final regular event of the European Tour season in Hong Kong next week.
Devlin made a big move at Las Colinas in Alicante where he carded a bogey free, seven under par 64 to move up 14 places to joint sixth on seven under.
“Nice to put myself in good shape, but have to keep playing solid tomorrow,” Devlin wrote on Twitter. “Lot of golf left!!”
But it will be a real battle for the other Irish in action there as Brendan McCarroll’s level par 71 dropped him 12 spots to 25th on one under while a 70 by Waterville’s Mark Murphy, playing on painkillers after believing he had torn ligaments in his wrist in Thursday’s second round, saw him slip 10 places to 40th on one over.
He later told his Facebook friends: “Ok peeps, iced my hand for 3 hrs last night spoke to my Dr friend in New Orleans he told me he didn’t think I had torn anything & I couldn’t do anymore damage. Got up and played 18 holes in bad pain with 1 hand and shot 1 under par. #grindinmyassoff Ice back on I am not giving up without a fight :)”
At El Valle in Murcia, Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe (72) and Limerick’s Tim Rice (70) are teetering on the qualifying mark in joint 15th while Cian Curley could only move up 19 spots to 40th despite his gutsy, three under 68.
It’s looking good for Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney at Lumine in Tarragona, where a four under 67 boosted him to joint fifth, just two shots behind leader Martin Sell on 10 under.
But Clandeboye’s Jonny Caldwell and Ballinsaloe’s Mark Staunton need to go low in Saturday’s final round to keep their tour card dreams alive.
Caldwell’s 70 left him at least two shots off the qualifying pace on three under while Staunton’s 71 saw him fall 11 places to 36th on two under.
As for British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar, he made five birdies but still carded a two over 73 to remain 76th on 13 over.
European Tour Qualifying School - Second Stage - November 7-10
After 54 holes (position after previous round)
T1 (T10) Simon THORNTON Team Ireland 73 71 66 (-6), Jason Timmis England 68 (-6)
T7 (T10) David HIGGINS Waterville Golf Links 71 73 69 (-3)
T22 (T31) Gareth SHAW Team Ireland 74 74 70 (+2)
T36 (T26) Ruaidhri MCGEE Golf 525 Murcia 75 72 74 (+5)
T54 (T56) Noel FOX Portmarnock 77 77 72 (+10)
T1 Tim SLUITER Ned 67 70 65 (-11)
T6 (T20) Chris DEVLIN Team Ireland 71 71 64 (-7)
T25 (T13) Brendan McCARROLL Team Ireland 71 70 71 (-1)
T40 (T30) Mark MURPHY 72 72 70 (+1)
T73 (T56) Barrie TRAINOR Mayobridge GC 75 73 73 (+8)
1 Tom HAYLOCK Eng 72 65 69 (-7)
T15 (T6) Peter O’KEEFFE Douglas GC 71 66 72 (-2)
T15 (T14) Tim RICE Limerick GC 74 67 70 (-2)
T40 (T59) Cian CURLEY Team Ireland 73 75 68 (+3)
1 Martin SELL Eng 67 67 67 (-12)
T5 (T7) Niall KEARNEY Royal Dublin 70 66 67 (-10)
T28 (T25) Jonathan CALDWELL Clandeboye GC 72 68 70 (-3)
T36 (T25) Mark STAUNTON Ballinasloe GC 68 72 71 (-2)
76 (T73) Alan DUNBAR (AM) Rathmore GC 75 78 73 (+13)