By Brian Keogh
Big Rory Leonard hopes Rory McIlroy will get blown away when he faces the defending champion in the third round of the Radission-SAS West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point today.
After losing to the boy wonder in the semi-finals two years ago, the Banbridge man is praying that the elements will be on his side this time
"I think tough conditions will give me a better chance of beating him to be honest," said Leonard, who lost in the 1999 decider to Finland's Mikko Illonen. "On a calm day he could shoot six or seven under, which would be tough to match, but level par on a tough day might be easier.”
After sleepwalking his way through the qualifiers with rounds of 69 and 75, McIlroy shrugged off some putting problems to cruise into the last 16 and stay on track for a hat-trick of wins at the famous County Sligo links.
In the first matchplay round he reeled of five birdies and dropped just one shot in an impressive 2 and 1 win over Portmarnock's David Kelleher, who was three under on his own card and didn't drop a shot.
But while he outclassed Galway’s Eddie McCormack by 3 and 2 in the second round, McIlroy was unhappy with his form on the greens and headed straight for the practice putting green for a quick lesson from national coach Neil Manchip.
“This morning was a bit more like it,” said McIlroy, who shot a four over par 75 in the second qualifying round on Saturday. “I knew David was a pretty good player and would be sticky enough and I played pretty well, but not this afternoon.
“I didn’t commit to my putts on the greens so I just asked Neil for a quick lesson. It is more about attitude than mechanics and I was trying to guide the ball to the hole rather than letting the putter come through naturally.”
Leading qualifier Simon Ward fought back from three down after four to beat McIlroy's pal Harry Diamond by two holes in the afternoon but fellow international Shane Lowry, joint second in the qualifying, crashed out by 5 and 3 to big-hitting Michael Lavelle from Belmullet.
Lavelle was one down after five holes but took the sixth, eighth, ninth and 10th in par to go three up before Lowry called a penalty on himself when the ball moved in the rough at the 11th to go four behind.
Connor Doran of Banbridge also made his exit in the second round when he was beaten 3 and 2 by the Island's Brendan Walton, a nephew of Ryder Cup hero Philip.
But the only other shock of the day came in the morning when 17-year-old Strandhill schoolboy Tommy McGowan, playing on an invitation from the Connacht Branch, produced a birdie at the 20th to eliminate Irish international Niall Kearney of Royal Dublin.
Radisson-SAS West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship
W McCulley (Donaghadee) bt G Hall (Edenderry) 3/1;
J Hurst (Shaw Hill, UK) bt G Boyd (Donaghadee) 2/1;
D Coyle (Co Louth) bt D Scully (Galway) 19th;
D Crowe (Dunmurry) bt S Grant (Birr) 2/1;
N Gorey (Lee Valley) bt D Finn (Mallow) 2/1;
G McDermott (Co Sligo) bt M Hammond (Moyola Park) 2/1
E Saxel (Petersfield, UK) bt R McNamara (Headfort) 3/2;
T McGowan (Strandhill) bt N Kearney (Royal Dublin) 20th.
L Lennox (Moyola Park bt D Vaughan (Ardglass) 5/4;
P Cutler (Portstewart) bt J P Hughes (Douglas) 2 holes;
B Walton (UCD/Island) bt E Kennedy (Strabane) 6/5;
C Doran (Banbridge) bt G O’Connor (Malahide) 2/1;
T Walsh (Claremorris) bt K O’Neill (Strandhill) 1 up;
R Leonard (Banbridge) bt M Crowe (Elm Park) 1 up;
E McCormack (Galway) bt G O’Flaherty (Cork) 2 up;
R McIlroy (Holywood) bt D Kelleher (Portmarnock) 2/1.
S Ward (Co Louth) bt A Condren (Greystones) 4/3;
H Diamond (Holywood) bt P Killeen (Claremorris) 19th;
D Lernihan (UCD/Castle) bt D Morgan (Mullingar) 4/3;
B Cashman (Belvoir Park) bt P Sheehy (Limerick) 3/2;
R Kilpatrick (Banbridge) bt D Coyne (Tuam) 1 hole;
C Curley (Newlands) bt A McCloy (Ballymena) 2 holes;
P Connolly (Clontarf) bt D Sutton (Lockerbie, UK) 19th;
D Downie (Sutton) bt J Moore (L’town & B’town) 6/5.
S Lowry (UCD/Esker Hills) bt D Kneafsey (Sudbury, UK) 6/5;
M Lavelle (K Club) bt N Grant (Knock) 1 hole;
J Lyons (Galway) bt P McGrath (Dromoland) 4/3;
R McCarthy (The Island) bt E O’Sullivan (The Island) 3/2;
P Murray (Limerick) bt R Boal (Scrabo) 3/2;
C Hughes (Royal Portrush) bt P Errity (Delgany) 2/1;
A Dunbar (Rathmore) bt A Johnston (North Middlesex, UK) 1 hole;
A Hogan (UCD/Newlands) bt C O’Connor (UCD/Athlone) 2/1.
J Hurst bt W McCulley 5/4;
D Crowe bt D Coyle 3/2;
N Gorey bt G McDermott 3/2;
T McGowan bt E Saxel 2/1
P Cutler bt L Lennox 5/3;
B Walton bt C Doran 3/2;
R Leonard bt T Walsh 2/1;
R McIlroy bt E McCormack 3/2.
S Ward bt H Diamond 2 holes;
D Lernihan bt B Cashman 1 hole;
R Kilpatrick bt C Curley 3/2;
D Downie bt P Connolly 1 hole.
M Lavelle bt S Lowry 5/3;
J Lyons bt R McCarthy 2/1;
P Murray bt C Hughes 4/3;
A Hogan bt A Dunbar 2/1.
Third rd draw (8.0 am at 10 minutes intervals)
J Hurst v D Crowe;
N Gorey v T McGowan;
P Cutler v B Walton;
R Leonard v R McIlroy;
S Ward v D Lernihan;
R Kilpatrick v D Downie;
M Lavelle v J Lyons;
P Murray v A Hogan.
Quarter-finals (From 1 pm, 15 minute intervals).