Kilkenny’s Gary Murphy took another small step towards regaining his card and Niall Kearney showed his huge potential on a wind-lashed second day of the European Tour Qualifying School finals at PGA Golf Catalunya.
A cold southwest wind gusting over 30 mph sent scores scoring at the stunning 36-hole Catalan complex just outside Girona but Murphy was up to the challenge as he leapt into a share of seventh place on six under par.
The 37-year old added a three under par 67 on the easier Tour Course to his excellent 69 on the punishing Stadium Course to move 22 places up a leaderboard and trail English pace-setters Charlie Ford and Simon Khan by just five strokes.
Playing at the same venue, 21-year old Kearney continued his hot run of recent form by holing a 10 foot birdie putt at the par-five 18th for a two under par 68 that leaves him just a stroke outside the top 30 and ties who will earn cards at the end of six gruelling rounds over the Tour and Stadium Courses.
Murphy was pleased with a 67 but also disappointed not to have pushed on further after getting to five under for the day with five to play.
A double bogey six at the 500-yard fifth killed his momentum and while he birdied the par-five seventh, his tee shot at the elevated eighth spun back down the hill and he bogeyed.
“I quite like Spain. It must be the paella because I am playing nicely,” joked Murphy when reminded of his share of fourth in the Madrid Masters just last month.
“Ideally I’d like to have shot six under today - I was five under for my round standing on the fifth tee (my 14th) and took double after a bad second and a fluffed chip - but I’m playing nicely."
Ford shot a 64 and Khan a seven under 63 on the easier Tour Course to lead by a stroke from compatriot Jamie Elson as overnight leader Julien Guerrier followed his Q-School record 60 with a three over 75 on the tougher Stadium Course (there was just one sub-70 score there and just six sub par rounds from 78) to slip back to seven under.
Kearney had four birdies and two bogeys in his 68 and the Royal Dublin man believes he is playing well enough to contend for a play on the European Tour just days after turning professional.
“I played great in stage two last week and that gave me a lot of confidence coming in here,” said Kearney, who is 13 under for his last four rounds. “The courses are a lot tougher but the game is still there. I have to keep it going.”
The other four Irish contenders all shot over par at the Stadium Course, where only the first starter of the day broke 70 before the wind started to howl.
Glasson's Colm Moriarty and Ulster-based Simon Thornton signed for rounds of 77 and 75 respectively but are just inside the top 70 and ties who will make tomorrow's (Tuesday) 72-hole cut on level par.
"It was just one of those days," said Moriarty, who has professional Justin Kehoe on his bag after getting the okay from the tour (Kehoe did not enter Q-School this year and is eligible to caddy for a fellow professional). "I didn’t play well at all. I was one under through five and playing quite well but it was just scrappy from there on in. It is a tough enough course any way but on a day like this it’s easier to drop shots. But it is not disastrous."
Clandeboye’s Jonny Caldwell fell back to 96th on two over par after a 77 but it could have been a lot worse after he racked up a quadruple bogey eight at the fourth after two visits to a water hazard and followed that with a double bogey at the par-three fifth where his tee shot found water again.
At the fourth, he took off his shoes and socks in attempting to escape from the hazard but failed to escape and went back to the drop zone. From there he trickled back into the hazard again and after taking off his shoes and socks for the second time, he splashed out into a bunker but limited further damage by getting up and down of his eight.
After a hooked tee shot into water at the 200 yard fifth, he did well to play the remaining 13 holes in level par with the highlight an eagle three at the par-five 12th.
Caldwell said: "Apart from two bad holes, everything else was pretty solid. It could have been a disaster after dropping six shots in those two holes so I did well to playing the other 16 under par. Hopefully I can get the luck of the draw for the next two days."
Club professional John Kelly confessed that his inexperience at this level cost him dear as he carded a 78 on the Stadium to slip to 149th on eight over.
"The wind was blowing but it’s not tough. You have just got to hit good shots and my mind wasn’t here. It is a bad week to be standing over the ball second-guessing yourself. I am standing over it thinking, is this the right club. You just can’t play that way.
"Every bad shot I have hit has been down to some interference in my head. I do my own yardages and I was so far out so many times, short or long because of doubts in my head, ANy time I committed fully to a shot I was fine. But it’s Tour School pressure. I haven’t played enough during the year. I have to shoot two good rounds now just to make the cut. Looking at it, I have prepared as well as I could possibly prepare but I have missed the plane.
"Pro-ams don’t do this to you. I won in Greenore, a few other little pro-ams and two pro only events but it is not the same. This is ten times more difficult.
"I have missed the experience of playing at this level and I am out there making poor decisions and dropping shots because of that rather than poor swings. I am hitting great shots but every dropped shot is coming from poor decision making.
"Some of the stuff that is in my head over the ball is just wrong. I came out and committed (to my shots) on the front nine and shot level par. Then I hit a bad bad shot into the third. I laid up and hit my third into the water, doubting the club. I took an eight iron, thinking that maybe it should be a seven and hit an awful shot. That was the story of the day."