Damien McGrane hopes he can give himself a get out clause from dishwasher duty after he moved into the card places with two rounds to go the European Tour Qualifying School at PGA Catalunya Resort.
On a day when Greystones’ Paul Dunne found his putting touch and shot a brilliant 68 on the Stadium Course to move up to tied 18th on seven under (three shots outside his target for the week of double digits under par), it’s the dogged 44-year old Meath man who leads the Irish challenge even if he’s not all that interested right now.
With Kevin Phelan and Simon Thornton also making the four-round cut, Ireland have four men battling to finish inside the crucial Top 25 over the last two rounds.
But even though McGrane says he is “bored” by tournament golf after losing his card following 13 years on tour, he wants to give himself an employment option next season.
“Am I interested? Right now, no,” said McGrane, whose battling 71 left him tied for 14th on eight under, six shots behind English pair Daniel Gavins and Chris Hanson and South Africa’s Jean Hugo.
“Maybe if I sit at home for the next four or five months in miserable weather, loading and unloading the dishwasher, I might say, Christ, I’d better go back and play golf.
"I am bored playing tournament golf. I have showed that all of this year. And as I said already, if I got a card, it would allow me to play a little bit of golf next year because right nowI have unfortunately lost my interest in playing tournaments. I don’t know what is going to happen.”
McGrane hopes some “great young Irish players” get their cards and Open hero Dunne is now in position after he holing seven putts between five and 30 feet in a five-birdie 68 that moved him to tied 18th on seven under.
In contrast, Kevin Phelan holed almost nothing as he carded a 73 to lie 44th on three under while Simon Thornton shot a one under 71 to make the cut with a shot to spare and regain some tour status after two miserable years.
Undone by an 87 on Sunday, Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee closed with a four under 66 on the Tour Course but missed the one under par cut by seven shots with Headfort’s Brian Casey a shot further back after a one over 71.
T14 Damien McGrane (276 -8, 71 68 66 71)
The Meath grinder produced one of his trademark rounds on the Stadium Course, where he rode his luck at times but avoided disaster, tidied up well and got a few good breaks.
Starting on the 10th, he plugged his drive in a bunker and had to hack out sideways, opening with a bogey. But he then birdied the par-five 12th and 15th and bogeyed the 16th to turn in level before playing the back nine in an adventurous one under.
After a good birdie at the par-five third, he drove left into trees at the short fourth but hacked out right of the green and got up and down from the heavy rough courtesy of a 12 foot putt.
He was even more fortunate at the downhill par-three fifth where anything tugged left finds a pond.
Blinded by the sun, he was hoping to find his tee shot nestling next to the pin but realising he had over-clubbed, he searched for his ball in rough over the green and began to fear it was in the water until Sweden’s Joel Sjolhom found it in a particularly juicy tuft of rough.
The plus-fourred Swede had problems of his own as he was putting with his wedge after his putter suffered an accident earlier in the round.
What he thought as McGrane proceeded to chip in for a two was not recorded for posterity but Sjoholm ended up putting for birdie with the blade of his wedge on the ninth to make the cut and came up short.
McGrane made bogey at the par-five seventh, where he three putted and he was grateful to two putt the last from 40 feet up a tier to get in with a 71 for eight under.
“I played reasonable today,” he said. "I hit wedges close to the pins and survived. I did a lot of putting from 25 feet. Everyone is going to have to grind here.
"The guys at the top of the leaderboard are going very well but six rounds around here, you are not going to have it your own way all the. PGA Catalunya is going to bite back at some stage and I rode my luck today.”
One of the most entertaining golfers you will meet, his unique take on his current status in the game will confuse many. But he’s simply saying how he feels about life on the road and his chances of enjoying it going forward should be win back his card.
“I did the best I could each day,” he said of his week so far. "My golf hasn’t been great but I’ve made the most of every opportunity. I have had a few bits of good fortune and turned bogeys into birdies and all fo a sudden I am up there.
“Targets? I never do targets, just try and survive. If you play well, you can do well. I am more interested in trying to play well and hopefully goals will follow.
“If I got a good tour card it would give me the option to pay a little bit of golf next year, if I am interested. That’s the only reason I am here.”
McGrane’s interest levels are close to zero right now but he denies speculation that he has a juicy club job lined up.
“Club job? God no. I am not there at the moment. I have to take me time and decide what I want to do and if I have to spend most of next year doing that, so be it. The only reason I am here is to give myself an option.”
If there’s job satisfaction, it comes from competing, he said.
“It is nice to compete and you have to be mindful that there are other players here who are starting their career and that’s what a guy like me can appreciate,” McGrane added.
"There are other guys here and it means an awful lot to them because they are trying to get out on the tour. I have had 13 years in a row, I don’t quite have the same mindset but I would love to see all the young players and a few of the Irish lads, scrape through and maybe get a tour card or if nothing else, maybe get a Challenge Tour card.
"We have some great young players in Ireland at the moment and they just need that break because it is very difficult coming here for six rounds. The course is difficult. There is nothing easy about this place. I’d love to see guys survive.”
McGrane sees no viable alternative to Q-School right now with the satellite tours and the Challenge Tour offering too little money.
“To find a feeder tour where guys can pay their bills and make a living is not possible,” he said. “Okay, a small number of guys made an awful lot of money on the Challenge Tour this year. But the guys I played with this week said the money is shocking. The Tour School systems has worked for a long long time. If there was better money on the Challenge Tour, the Challenge Tour system would be the way forward.”
T18 Paul Dunne (277 -7, 71 68 70 68)
The Greystones man finally found his putting touch, holing putts all over the course with the 15 footer he made for par on the ninth one of his most satisfying of a very good day for the Wicklow man.
He moved 37 places up the leaderboard from 55th to tied 18th and having studied the results of Q-School over the past few years, he knows that double digits under par may well be required to get his card.
“Every day is just as important as the next,” said Dunne, who had to hole a 10 footer for par at the 10th, his opening hole and continued in that positive vein with the short stick.
“Obviously as things start to get towards the end a little bit, everything starts to tighten up. But I played lovely today for the most part. I hit it well off the tee bar two or three holes and my putter felt a lot better in my hands from the start this morning and that gave me a lot of confidence to go after flags.
" If I had a four or five footer to save par, I was quite confident over them. A good day. Hopefully the club will feel like that in my hand for the next couple of days.
“If I can just play steady, hit good tee shots and keep the putter solid and just eliminate mistakes, birdies will come. it is just a matter of when you get in trouble, getting out of it with a par.”
Dunne did that at the 10th and also holed a five footer at the 14th for par before two putting the easy 15th for a birdie four to get into the red.
He hit a five iron to eight feet at the 195-yard 16th and holed the putt to go two under, holed a 10 footer for par at the 17th but bogeyed the 18th off a poor tee shot to turn in 35.
After pars at the first three holes on the back nine, he drained a 30 footer across the green at the fourth to go two under, birdied the sixth thanks to a seven iron to five feet and two-putted the par-five seventh for birdie thanks to a good drive and a three-wood to 20 feet.
He then got up and down from 120 yards for par at the last, having driven into sand.
“I am just going to try and keep picking my targets and hitting shots,” he said. “Knock off the pars as much s I can.
"It would be great to get my card. it would be a great end to what has been quite a memorable year so far. But having said that, if you don’t get your card it is a big difference in next year in planning your schedule whether you get your card this week or not.”
Having finished 168th in the Race to Dubai from just three starts, Dunne has Challenge Tour status and is playing for a Top 25 spot or nothing, effectively.
"It would obviously be great and it’s what I have been striving for for the last while but it is just two days of golf. Hopefully I can play well and if I do, it will take care of itself.
“I already have a Challenge Tour card from where I finished the Race to Dubai. Making the cut outside the Top 25 makes no difference to me I am just chasing the 25.”
As for his putting and his habit of letting his arms hang naturally before he grips the putter, he explained: “I have been working on trying to get the alignment better on my forearms over my putts. It’s something I needed to do.
“My right arm was get a bit ahead of my left arm and causing me to take the putter back a little on the inside. So I’ve been working on it and trying to do it the last while and it gave me more confidence. Hopefully I can do it again tomorrow, but you never know.”
Dunne headed to the range to work in his game and he’s clear about what he wants to do this week
“If I can get into double digits (under par) I will be safe,” he said. “My goal was 69 today and I shot 68. I’ll try to shoot 69 again tomorrow.”
T44 Kevin Phelan (281, -3 70 72 66 73)
The Mount Juliet touring professional played very well from tee to green for the most part but one bogey and 17 pars told the story of his day on the greens.
Indeed, had he not be so clinical with his chipping and bunker play, he’d have missed the cut which would have been tough but would not have meant much in the greater scheme of things as he had an excellent category for 2016 and will get more than 20 starts on the main tour.
“I either hit really good irons shots or really bad ones,” Phelan said. “When I hit the bad ones I got up and down. I had one bogey that was when a tee shot got struck behind a tree on 13. I had some really good up and downs — from a bunker on 14 and on 16, 17 and 18.
“I had birdie birdie chances on pretty much everything on my back nine, par the fifth, where I was just off the green. On the last five or six holes I had chances on pretty much all of them, hit good putts and didn’t seem to hole anything.”
“The one of the last from 30 feet there just shaved the edge. But I had plenty of chances and the game feels good so I can’t complain that much. It could have been better but it also could have been a lot worse.”
On his position in the tournament, he said: "I haven’t looked at the leaderboard all week. I am just trying to go as low as I can. A coupe of good rounds will do it so I will give it everything. Give it socks.”
T51 Simon Thornton (282 -2, 71 67 73 71)
After playing 36 holes on the Tour Course in level par, Simon Thornton’s patience levels were at a low ebb heading out on the Stadium Course on Tuesday.
With no category for 2016 despite his win in St Omer in 2013, it was a huge day for the 38-year old adopted Irishman.
Like McGrane, he has no massive desire to put himself through the tour meat grinder again but he wants to give himself the option of being able to pick and choose his schedule and yesterday’s one under 71 was a model of professionalism.
Early birdies at the second and third steadied his nerves and while he followed a great bunker save from the back trap at the fourth and a regulation bogey at the tough fifth with a birdie at the sixth and a bogey at the ninth to turn in one under.
He need to play the back nine well to survive and did just that, parring his way home to make the cut with one stroke to spare.
“I’m in the battle still,” he said, clearly relieved. “The last time I got my card (in 2011) I just scraped in for the last two rounds as well so let’s see.
"It was important for me to make the cut because I had no category. Two years ago you win on the main tour and everything it rosy. Then all of a sudden, you have no category. That’s just golf. Ups and down.
“I kept telling myself, ‘it’s not important’, but obviously it was important. At least I can say, ‘Right, if I want to carry on playing I can play.’ It’s a monkey off the back, I suppose.”
Thornton hopes he will be freed up now and can attack the course, sensibly, over the last two days.
Pulling his own bag, he’s deliberately tried to simply the game recently and it’s paid dividends with his win in the new North of Ireland event at Downpatrick restoring some self belief.
“Whatever happens now, happens now. But I can play with a bit more freedom. You don’t have to hit it in the middle of the green all day long. You can shape it a bit more and be sensibly aggressive.”
As for the rest, the European Tour reports:
The European Tour dream is still alive for 78 players, including experienced winners such as Maarten Lafeber, Ross McGowan and Edoardo Molinari, after the fourth-round cut fell at Qualifying School Final Stage, where three players share the lead.
South African Jean Hugo joined Englishmen Daniel Gavins and Chris Hanson at the top of the pile on 14 under par two thirds of the way through golf’s greatest marathon. But for those players who made the one under par cut at PGA Catalunya Resort - a European Tour Destination - winning is not the be all and end all.
The top 25 and ties at the end of the gruelling six-round examination will earn their berth in The 2016 Race to Dubai and, with even those on the cut line just five shots off the six under mark that is currently good enough for European Tour promotion, it is all to play for in northern Spain.
Among those inside the top 25 are Swedish amateur star Marcus Kinhult and Irishman Paul Dunne – who shared the third round lead at this year’s Open Championship – as well as former European Tour winners such as Kenneth Ferrie, Peter Hedblom, Lafeber, McGowan, Damien McGrane and Molinari.
Joint leader Hugo is one man who knows all about winning – having claimed 17 victories on the Sunshine Tour – and he believes that he may reap the rewards if he treats the fabled Final Stage as just another tournament.
“I’m quite happy because I’ve played it very well so far,” said the 36 year old from Stellenbosch, who has not yet successfully negotiated Final Stage in eight attempts. “I’m looking forward to the next two rounds.
“If you bring a bit of form in here you can do well. I’ve never really done well at Q-School, but I maybe have a different mind-set to previous years I’ve tried. I’ve been playing very well at home so that helps.
“I’ll try and build on every score day by day, you never know what the other guys are going to do. In the past I’ve tried to get out there too quickly, then you miss by a couple, then you think of the previous year’s cut and the numbers. If you just play according to the conditions you’ll be fine.
“It just fell into place today, I hit a lot of good shots and I’ve got myself in the game. If you try and win this one and then just fall short, you’re still well off with your card for next year, so that’s the aim.
“It’s a lot of pressure on everyone this week and it’s a tough course so you have to deal with it in your own way and try to get out of your own way, play the course as it is.”
Ryan Fox of New Zealand, meanwhile, provided one of the stories of a tense day as he carded a six under 64 – the best of the day – on the Tour Course to climb inside the cut line from four shots outside.
The son of former All Blacks legend Grant, the 28 year old only just missed out on graduation via the European Challenge Tour last week, finishing one spot outside the top 15 of the Road to Oman Rankings at the conclusion of the 2015 season.
“It was great out there today,” he said. “I could sort of feel it coming, there were some signs the first three days and obviously the Tour Course is a bit easier than the Stadium Course. I managed to take advantage of that today and hang around for the next couple of days which is nice.
“I had nothing to lose this week really, I’m playing for top 25 or bust which is quite a nice position to be in – unlike quite a few other guys I’ve still got status for next year, something to fall back on.
“I was more than a little bit disappointed to miss out on that top 15, but I didn’t play well enough those last two weeks in China and Oman.
“I struggled the first couple of days here, mentally especially in the second round, but I kicked myself in the arse today and found something out there and hopefully can take this on for the next couple of days and that 16th place won’t matter too much.”
Other notable movers included Gabriel Axell – one of nine Swedes to make the cut – and Dutchman Reinier Saxton, who both shot four under par rounds of 66 to sneak in on the cut line.
Among those moving in the opposite direction at the worst possible moment were Australian Mark Brown and Joel Sjӧholm of Sweden, both well over par today to miss the cut by one shot, with Daan Huizing of the Netherlands shooting an untimely 79 to drop out of the top 70
European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage, PGA Catalunya Resort (Tour Course, Par 70; Stadium Course, Par 72), Girona
After 72 holes
270 D Gavins (Eng) 71 65 66 68; C Hanson (Eng) 70 63 66 71; J Hugo (RSA) 65 71 67 67;
271 A Otaegui (Esp) 74 63 62 72;
273 U Van Den Berg (RSA) 72 64 66 71; D Im (USA) 70 68 65 70; J Knutzon (USA) 67 68 66 72;
274 G King (Eng) 64 72 64 74; M Kinhult (am) (Swe) 66 67 65 76;
275 D Dixon (Eng) 72 68 64 71; C Costilla (Arg) 68 71 68 68; L Jensen (Den) 70 66 67 72; R McGowan (Eng) 69 69 64 73;
276 Damien McGrane (Irl) 71 68 66 71; M Southgate (Eng) 72 66 68 70; N Bertasio (Ita) 71 68 66 71; J Robinson (Eng) 72 69 64 71;
277 J Guerrier (Fra) 69 70 66 72; M Palmer (RSA) 63 71 68 75; M Jonzon (Swe) 68 70 65 74; H Joannes (Bel) 66 70 68 73; P Dunne (Irl) 71 68 70 68; N Ravano (Ita) 75 65 65 72;
278 R Finch (Eng) 69 66 70 73; L Canter (Eng) 67 69 68 74; F Fritsch (Ger) 68 69 66 75; J Scrivener (Aus) 65 72 70 71; F Laporta (Ita) 69 68 67 74; N Cullen (Aus) 61 73 66 78; E Goya (Arg) 73 63 69 73; C Sordet (Fra) 71 66 64 77; L Nemecz (Aut) 67 65 66 80; D Papadatos (Aus) 67 70 65 76;
279 D Law (Sco) 67 72 68 72; H Porteous (RSA) 65 72 74 68; P Whiteford (Sco) 74 70 67 68; M Foster (Eng) 71 68 67 73; W Besseling (Ned) 68 71 68 72;
280 C Berardo (Fra) 76 64 63 77; R Fox (Nzl) 68 77 71 64; M Pavon (Fra) 67 68 71 74; K Ferrie (Eng) 70 69 64 77; R McEvoy (Eng) 66 74 69 71;
281 D Foos (Ger) 74 70 69 68; M Delpodio (Ita) 72 67 69 73; S Arnold (Aus) 70 71 69 71; D Burmester (RSA) 74 67 69 71; K Phelan (Irl) 70 72 66 73; D Gaunt (Aus) 68 74 69 70; P Oriol (Esp) 70 73 69 69;
282 J White (Eng) 68 74 73 67; L Gagli (Ita) 71 71 72 68; J Hahn (USA) 71 74 69 68; A Karlsson (Swe) 67 73 69 73; A Hartø (Den) 72 68 68 74; J Loughrey (Eng) 72 72 69 69; R Evans (Eng) 67 72 70 73; D Bransdon (Aus) 72 71 72 67; P Shields (Sco) 67 70 68 77; E Molinari (Ita) 66 77 71 68; J Lima (Por) 74 70 72 66; C Ford (Eng) 71 71 73 67; S Thornton (Irl) 71 67 73 71; F Bergamaschi (Ita) 67 65 75 75; S Fernandez (am) (Esp) 64 72 67 79;
283 J Walters (RSA) 68 73 69 73; S Soderberg (Swe) 74 69 73 67; G Axell (Swe) 74 68 75 66; J Dantorp (Swe) 66 71 71 75; P Howard (Eng) 73 67 68 75; D Lloyd (RSA) 64 74 69 76; P Hedblom (Swe) 69 74 73 67; O Stark (Swe) 77 65 71 70; S Manley (Wal) 66 74 69 74; M Lafeber (Ned) 74 66 65 78; R Saxton (Ned) 74 72 71 66; M Nixon (Eng) 72 76 68 67; P Widegren (Swe) 71 73 72 67;
284 J Sjöholm (Swe) 72 67 68 77; M Brown (Nzl) 69 72 67 76; D Van Tonder (RSA) 72 70 75 67; F Andersson Hed (Swe) 73 68 71 72; B Ritthammer (Ger) 70 77 72 65; J Smith (Eng) 76 71 72 65;
285 C Del Moral (Esp) 74 69 72 70; G Green (Mas) 69 70 70 76; C Koerbler (Aut) 73 69 71 72; P Angles (Esp) 63 80 73 69; D Huizing (Ned) 68 72 66 79; J Wrisdale (Eng) 74 72 74 65; P Mejow (Ger) 74 69 74 68;
286 T Gornik (Slo) 68 72 73 73; B Pettersson (Swe) 73 72 72 69; V Riu (Fra) 74 71 74 67; S Walker (Eng) 68 76 74 68; R Santos (Por) 75 63 74 74; K Samooja (Fin) 66 74 67 79; J Huldahl (Den) 66 80 74 66; J Mullen (Eng) 74 69 75 68; S Hansen (Den) 67 74 67 78; D Kataoka (Jpn) 76 68 73 69; R Johnson (Swe) 71 70 68 77; S Henry (Sco) 71 69 70 76; A Chesters (Eng) 73 69 74 70;
287 S Brown (Eng) 73 71 71 72; R Kellett (Sco) 75 65 70 77; B Hafthorsson (Isl) 74 72 73 68; J Sarasti (Esp) 69 68 70 80; J Doherty (Sco) 69 73 75 70; M Wallace (Eng) 71 76 72 68; A Tadini (Ita) 73 71 72 71; R Coles (Eng) 72 68 74 73; R Gonzalez (Arg) 79 68 72 68; J Lara (Esp) 71 71 71 74;
288 J Higginbottom (Aus) 75 74 72 67; A Saddier (Fra) 73 71 76 68; B Neil (Sco) 73 69 76 70; O Henningsson (Swe) 73 67 72 76; J Senior (Eng) 74 68 74 72; R Roussel (am) (Fra) 70 72 74 72;
289 M Crespi (Ita) 74 67 71 77; J Rutherford (Eng) 71 71 77 70; J Edfors (Swe) 76 69 79 65;
290 T Murray (Eng) 69 72 69 80; A Wejshag (Swe) 71 75 74 70; M Lundberg (Swe) 75 68 79 68; C Blomstrand (Swe) 75 73 73 69; R McGee (Irl) 64 87 73 66;
291 D Vancsik (Arg) 70 77 76 68; D Woltman (USA) 76 72 74 69; C Pigem (Esp) 70 75 75 71; M Welch (USA) 75 73 71 72; J Sandelin (Swe) 71 71 72 77; B Casey (Irl) 76 69 75 71;
292 F Mruzek (Cze) 68 71 73 80; S Jeppesen (Swe) 78 71 71 72; K Eriksson (Swe) 68 83 73 68; T Sinnott (Aus) 82 68 70 72;
295 P Martin Benavides (Esp) 74 76 74 71; J Lucquin (Fra) 72 77 76 70; M Wiegele (Aut) 69 75 80 71;
296 P Tarver-Jones (Eng) 74 75 76 71; C Feldborg Nielsen (Swe) 72 78 76 70; N Dougherty (Eng) 76 74 75 71;
297 M Laskey (Wal) 72 74 76 75; N Lemke (Swe) 76 70 76 75;
298 E Cuartero Blanco (Esp) 74 80 78 66;
301 G Piris Mateu (Esp) 70 77 80 74;
302 J Cafourek (Cze) 69 77 75 81; A Murdaca (Aus) 72 74 81 75;
DQ/WD M Orrin (Eng) 76 66 79 WD; N Holman (Aus) 70 72 78 WD; P Lawrie (Irl) 76 69 DQ; E Kofstad (Nor) 67 78 WD; G Murray (Sco) 76 70 WD; M Søgaard (Den) 70 78 WD.