Brian Keogh at San Roque
It’s meant to be a torturously slow slog to finish inside the top 30, but the first round of the European Tour Qualifying School Finals looked more like a cavalry charge as 58 players in the 156-man field broke par at The San Roque Club.
As England’s Robert Coles carded a six under par 66 on the New Course to lead by two shots, no fewer than 29 players finished in a tie for that coveted 30th place on one under par.
Glasson’s Colm Moriarty did even better than that, getting his bid off the perfect start with a two under par 70 on a perfect golfing day at the Old Course.
But the remaining Irish contenders have little room for manoeuvre if they are to make the 72-hole cut for the top 70 and ties on Sunday night, never mind their cards.
Douglas’s Peter O'Keeffe and Derry’s Michael McGeady undid all their hard work on the Old Course with disappointing finishes for rounds of 74 and 75 respectively while at the New Course, Damian Mooney and Stephen Browne had technical problems as they signed for matching three over par 75s.
"It's such a long week but every good round you get under your belt is one less you have to worry about,” said Moriarty, who had four birdies and just two bogeys in a 70 that left him in a 20-man tie for 10th place. “The only chance I missed was a seven footer for birdie on the 16th but the one thing I have learnt from being here twice before is that it is an absolute marathon."
O'Keeffe was level par with three to play after bouncing back from bogeys at the sixth and eighth with birdies at the par five ninth and 10th holes
But he missed the green at the par three 16th to drop a shot and then leaked a 270-yard four wood into the lake at the long 17th to drop another and finish his first day as a professional in a share of 102nd.
"I didn't hit the ball very well today but my chipping and putting was good and that kept the round together,” O’Keeffe said.
McGeady had a rollercoaster finish to his round of 75 on the Old Course, sandwiching birdies at his 16th and 18th between a triple bogey seven at the tough, par-four eighth, where he duffed a chip and three-putted.
"It was a wee bit frustrating but it was nice to finish with a birdie. I know I can play a lot better so that's a nice feeling to go out with tomorrow."
Four players shot 68 on the New Course but Mooney and Browne both struggled with various aspects of their games for matching three over par 75s that should have been a lot better.
“I struggled with my wedge play and missed three greens from inside 130 yards and made bogey each time,” said Mooney, who was pleased with the rest of his game.
Browne was two under after four holes but bogeyed four holes in a row from the sixth and then dropped further shots at the 13th and 15th before making birdie at the long 16th.
“It wasn't a great day. I was two under after four and just hit one bad shot a hole for four holes and made four bogeys,” Browne said. “Overall it was a little bit of damage limitation.
“Three over is not a disaster in the first round. I'd expect to have a couple of good numbers myself and there are still 90 holes to go. If that's my bad round, things could be okay.”