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Hoey in the mix as McDowell and Harrington lurk

Michael Hoey fires his approach to the fifth on the Montgomerie Course. Picture: Fran Caffrey / www.golffile.ieNew Dad Michael Hoey is in the mood again after a stunning 67 left him chasing his fifth European Tour win.

The Belfast star, 34, was able to forget all about missing five of his last six cuts as he celebrated the birth of daughter Erin just a week ago.

Now he’s hoping he can go on and snatch the €333,330 winner’s cheque and pay for all those nappies.

As major winners Pádraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell had to grind hard to post 71s, Hoey cruised around the Monty Course with a smile on his face.

Beaming after making six birdies and just one bogey, he said: “Becoming a Dad gives you more perspective.

“Golf is not everything, but you view it more as a job and try to be more professional. And try and make some money! I have another mouth to feed.”

Revealing how his wife Bev went the extra mile for him by having the baby induced, he said: “The baby was due this week and I wanted to play the Irish Open, so that’s why we got an induction.”

He added: “I needed a good round because I haven’t had a good year this year.

“I’m coming in after four weeks off and I hit a lot of fairways and greens and it could have been seven or eight under but five under is about right.

“I haven’t been driving the ball well but I just have to put that bad run behind me and move on now.”

And he’s determined now to take advantage of his good start after the disappointment of missing out on a place in The Open by just two shots on Monday.

He said: “I was trying to finish birdie, birdie, and pushed a few shots and missed the Open just about.”

“It was quite tough on the way in when rain picked up because while the rough is not as thick as seven years ago, the course is long.”

Hoey’s former Walker Cup partner McDowell was two under with three to play but bogeyed the 17th and then failed to birdie the par-five 18th.

But he promised to come out with all guns blazing today and sent a message to joint leading Irishman Shane Lowry.

Graeme McDowell and Pádraig Harrington are just five shots off the lead. Picture: Fran Caffrey / www.golffile.ieMcDowell said: “The guy who wins will have really played well.  He’ll have driven the ball great and his short game will have been sharp, and that says a player like Shane Lowry to me.  

“I wish him all the best but we’ll be trying to catch him.  There’s a lot of golf to play here.

“I actually hit the ball solidly today but this is a tough golf course and the guys scored very well this morning

“You must drive the ball well here.  I’m not driving it as well as I would like to, but the rest of my game is in good shape.”

As Darren Clarke struggled to a three over 75, Harrington had to dig deep to get up and down for birdie at the last to keep the leaders in his sights.

The three-time major winner was poor with his wedges but came back from two over par after just three holes - he three putted the second and then bogeyed the third - to finish in the red on one under.

Sitting down to talk to reporters, Harrington sighed: “I’m tired after that, I really hard to work hard and it took a lot out of me.

“It was important to birdie the last and finish in red numbers because I got off to a horrible start on a day when you need some momentum.

“But I fought hard and after playing from the third onwards in three under was a good return having missed some putts early on. I putted well after that.

“Sometimes you turn up and see that guys are going to shoot six under every day but here they are going to shoot a couple of good scores and a couple of 70s or 71s.

“My 71 is fine but I will need to shoot a good score at some stage.”