From Brian Keogh at San Roque
Peter O’Keeffe’s hopes of earning a dream ticket to the European Tour were shattered beyond repair for even the most optimistic Irish golf fan in the European Tour Qualifying School Finals at windswept San Roque
A six over par 78 on the New Course was not the 26th birthday present he was looking for and while it is still possible for him to make the 72 hole cut for the top 70 and ties, he may need two sub par rounds to continue his quest.
At eight over par, O’Keeffe is tied for 142nd in the 156-man field - seven strokes outside the top 70 and nine shots adrift of the top 30 and ties who will earn European Tour cards at the end of six rounds.
“The wind didn't bother me but I am struggling with my irons at the moment and not hitting enough greens,” said O’Keeffe, who lurched home in 40 blows after a triple bogey at the par three fourth, his 13th.
“I didn't get up and down a few times and that was the key. I started with two bogeys and settled down to get it back to one over. But then I had a six on that par three - hit a seven iron in the trees and still had no shot after a penalty drop.
“I bogeyed the par five coming in as well which was disappointing. I need a low one tomorrow now to give myself a chance of making the cut going into the fourth round.”
Athlone’s Colm Moriarty leads the Irish quintet in a share of 29th place on one under after a battling 73 on the New Course while Belfast’s Damian Mooney is four shots further back in 94th after a level par 72 on the Old Course.
The rest of the Irish contenders need to start making birdies with Stephen Browne tied with Andrew Coltart for 120th place on five over par after a 74 and Michael McGeady one shot worse than O’Keeffe on nine over after a matching 78 on the New Course.
Moriarty recovered impressively from a brace of early double bogeys with two birdies in his last three holes as Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal carded an impressive, six under par 66 on the New to top the leaderboard by a stroke from Portugal’s Tiago Cruz and South Africa’s Thomas Aiken on seven under par.
"I am one under and it is a good start and leaves me in a nice position. I was just struggling with my commitment and focus out there today,” Moriarty said. "But it is such a long week, you just have to keep giving yourself chances and try to keep the big numbers off your card."
Mooney moved up 28 spots to share 94th place on three over after his 72 on the Old Course but still has work to do to make the cut for the top 70 and ties after four rounds.
But it is an even steeper climb now for Browne, who confessed that he is simply not playing well enough at the moment while McGeady’s suspect putting let him down badly as he carded four bogeys and a double bogey in a birdie-free effort.
“I was always battling but I haven't holed any putts yet or hit it close yet either,” Browne sighed. “I need a good round at this stage. I battled away and limited the damage to some extent. But it's damage to the leaderboard I need to be doing but I am just not playing well enough to do it.”