From Brian Keogh at San Roque
Peter O’Keeffe was left with a bad taste in his mouth after two late bogeys led to a two over par 74 and took the gloss off a grinding opening round in the European Tour Qualifying School Finals at San Roque.
Playing for position on the Old Course, the 25-year-old Douglas player had battled his way back to level par with eight holes to play after early bogeys at the sixth and eighth.
But he was disappointed to bogey the par three 16th and then leak another shot at the 568-yard 17th, where he was tempted to go for the green from 270-yards but pushed his four-wood approach into a lake.
Colm Moriarty is the only Irishman inside the top 30 and ties who will earn tour cards after six rounds after he opened with a two under par 70 on the Old Course to share 10th place with 19 other players.
Playing in perfect conditions, now fewer than 58 players broke par and occupy the top 30 places on the leaderboard but 75s but Michael McGeady, Damian Mooney and Stephen Browne have put them on the back foot straight away.
England’s Robert Coles hit a six under par 66 on the New Course to lead the field by two shots, but while O’Keeffe is tied for 102nd, he is far from out of it after a round that featured two birdies and four bogeys.
“I didn't hit the ball very well today but my chipping and putting was good and that kept the round together,” said O’Keeffe, who had birdied the par-five ninth and tenth to get back to level par. “I missed few greens coming in, didn’t get up and down on the par-three 16th and then I took on the green at the 17th and it turned out not to be the right shot, obviously.”
After two previous failures in the finals, Moriarty knows that there is still a long way to go before he can relax, explaining: "It's such a long week but every good round you get under your belt is one less you have to worry about.
"I played lovely, the way you want to play. Hit a lot of greens and putted nicely. Two under out there is a good score any day. My iron play was very good and I chipped in on the seventh from 40 feet short of the green for a birdie.
"I didn't squander any shots and got a nice up and down on the 18th out of the trap. 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."
McGeady had a rollercoaster finish for a 75 on the Old Course, getting back to one over par with birdies at the fifth and seventh after three bogeys in his first ten holes.
But he then triple bogeyed the long eighth, duffing a chip and then three-putting, before closing with a birdie at the par-five ninth.
He said: "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."
Belfast’s Mooney and Dubliner Browne shot rounds of 75 on the New Course that could and should have been a lot lower.
"I had lots of chances but I just didn't take them,” said Mooney. “I struggled with my wedge play and missed three greens from inside 130 yards and made bogey each time.
“I am still happy enough. If I had hit those greens with wedges I'd be one under so it was a stress free day. I have a wee bit of work to do but I am still happy with the way I have played.”
Browne was two under after four holes but bogeyed four holes on the spin from the sixth and soon ballooned to four over with further bogeys at the 13th and 15th before picking up a shot on the par-five 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."