Gavin sitting pretty as Ruaidhri roars with late birdie barrage

Gavin sitting pretty as Ruaidhri roars with late birdie barrage
 Ruaidhri McGee walks off the ninth, five shots outside the cut mark. A few hours later he was two shots inside the mark after making seven birdies in his last eight holes. Picture © Brian Keogh

Ruaidhri McGee walks off the ninth, five shots outside the cut mark. A few hours later he was two shots inside the mark after making seven birdies in his last eight holes. Picture © Brian Keogh

Gavin Moynihan is challenging for overall victory but Derry’s Ruaidhri McGee still has a chance of winning his European Tour card after he rattled in seven birdies in his last eight holes to make the cut with two shots to spare at the nerve-shredding Qualifying School.

Three strokes outside the projected 72-hole cut mark overnight, the 26-year-old looked out for the count when he went to the turn in two over par at Lumine Golf Club’s tight and tricky Hills Course.

He was five shots outside salvation at that stage but with the nothing to lose he produced the best back nine of the day — a scorching seven-under 29 — to card a five under 67 to move up to tied 50th and keep his dream alive.

“I needed them,” McGee said of a red-hot birdie run that leaves him just three strokes outside the top 25 and ties who will be awarded cards after tomorrow’s sixth round. 

“I don’t know what happened. I just holed a whole load of putts. I needed to do something and they just started going in.

“When you are out of the tournament, you maybe chill out a bit and that’s what happened. I was five outside the cut mark and nowhere near and then it all changed.”

Moynihan played the Lakes Course and continued his seemingly inexorable journey towards a full card when he posted a bogey-free, three-under 68 to move up to tied eighth on 10-under par, just five strokes behind England’s Sam Horsfield, who leads by a shot from compatriot Charlie Ford on 15-under.

Ardglass’ Cormac Sharvin was on track to make the cut for the top 70 and ties when he turned in three-under par at the Hills Course.

But he bogeyed three of his first six holes on his back nine and shot a level par 72 to miss out by three shots.

Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy finished four shots further back after a one-over 73 at the same track but while he doesn’t have a full Challenge Tour card like Sharvin, he will get up to 14 starts on the second tier tour next year.

 Gavin Moynihan narrowly misses for birdie on the ninth, his 18th. Picture © Brian Keogh

Gavin Moynihan narrowly misses for birdie on the ninth, his 18th. Picture © Brian Keogh

McGee is now also guaranteed full Challenge Tour status, which is something he needed after finishing 80th in the rankings in his third full season this year.

But he now has his eyes on the big prize after his putter suddenly caught fire on a cool but sunny day on the Catalan coast, firing four birdies in a row from the 11th before following a near miss at the 15th with three more to finish.

“Not counting one putt from off the green, I only had 11 putts on the back nine,” said McGee, who holed four birdie putts between 12 and 15 feet and tapped in for the other three at the par-five 11th and 16th and the driveable 12th. 

“It’s funny to go from being right out of the tournament to being right back in the middle of it. You are never that far away and over the last two rounds, anything can happen.

“Let’s see if I can get the job done and then roll up in the New Year, ready to rock.”

Moynihan has his sights set on a top 10 finish as it would give him a far superior category of membership to the players who finish between 11th and 25th this week.

He already knows he will get a dozen European Tour starts next year and admitted yesterday that he could not be more relaxed.

“I am so relaxed out there, it’s a joke,” he said with a chuckle after making three birdies in an almost faultless display on another windy day in Tarragona. 

“Even when the ball got stuck up the tree the other day, it didn’t bother me. Last year, I’d have lost the plot.

“The goal is top 10 and whatever happens, happens. I know 11th to 25th is a bit of an improvement on what I have but the top 10 is a better category again, so two sub 70 rounds is the target for the next two days.”

 Dermot McElroy was still smiling despite his disappointment. Picture © Brian Keogh

Dermot McElroy was still smiling despite his disappointment. Picture © Brian Keogh

Still, he’s targeting a win, he added: “I am only five behind and there are two more rounds to go, so make a few birdies early tomorrow and I am back in it.”

Sharvin was always in trouble after playing his opening two rounds in five-over and did not hole putts consistently over the four days.

“I had it going,” he said of his front nine. “I was three under through 10 and I should have been at least six under because I missed three short putts. 

“I missed two good chances on 18 and 1 and then hit a bad shot on two, pulled my five-iron lay up into a bush and ended up making [a bogey] six.

“Then I compounded the error with a bogey on the next and that set me back and I was just chasing then.

“I was being aggressive to some flags and I was in the bunker on six and bogey, birdied seven and then tried to get it back to that flag at the last and pulled it a fraction and made five. At that stage it didn’t matter.”

Having held on to his Challenge Tour card with a top-four finish in his final event, he knows things could be worse.

“The position I am in right now, if someone had given me that four weeks ago, I’d have taken their hand off for it,’ he said. 

“I have got to be pretty grateful for that. I can prep solely for Challenge Tour now and set up my schedule and take it from there. I know all the courses and to be honest, I think another year on the Challenge Tour will be good for me.

“It’s a good level and top 15 on Challenge Tour is what you want. With a card this week, I’ve seen a lot of guys jumping between two tours and at the end the year a lot of them don’t have any status.

“If you don’t come top 10 this week, you are not quite in no man’s land but you can be caught between the two tours and that can have a detrimental effect.

“I have taken on a new coach this year and will continue to do a bit of work with Paul [Vaughan]. But I will work with Michael Welch over the winter and get my game where it needs to be.

“I was in dire straits in the middle of the season with technical stuff and just managed to turn it round towards the end of the year. If I can keep working alongside Mike and get it right for March with a good offseason and practice, I will take it from there.

“I will try and have a good 2018. There is plenty of time for the European Tour. Anything can happen in his game.”

As for his final round — he was inside the top 70 with eight holes to go — he knows where he came up short.

“It was looking like I was going to be bogey-free today and then all of a sudden you hit one bad shot,” he said. “It was like that this week. I got badly punished for any little lapse in concentration. Didn’t get away with anything.  After the first couple of rounds I was chasing it, wasn’t I.”

As for the improvement in his game since he turned professional after the 2015 Walker Cup, he said: “I am ten times the player now than I was then. My game has come on a lot. You have to be very good to make out here now, there’s no doubt. So I will come back next year and take it from there.”

McElroy needed a 66 to qualify but never really got going because he simply didn’t hole the multiple birdie chances he created over the four days.

“It was very frustrating this week because I felt I played pretty well,” the Ballymena man said. “Any other week I would have been right up there, if the putting was decent. 

“So it was a frustrating week but I have some category on the Challenge Tour now just by getting here so I will get around 12 starts, which is decent.

“The main goal was to get my card or make the cut and guarantee a full Challenge Tour card. So it wasn’t my week. I made just a couple of mistakes.”

After following a birdie at the 11th, his second, with a bogey at the 13th, McElroy’s hopes all but ended at the par-three 14th, where he got a bad break and made a double bogey.

 TARRAGONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 12:  Simon Khan of England in action during the second round of the European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage at Lumine Golf Club on November 12, 2017 in Tarragona, Spain.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

TARRAGONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 12:  Simon Khan of England in action during the second round of the European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage at Lumine Golf Club on November 12, 2017 in Tarragona, Spain.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

“It landed on the fringe, shot left onto a cart path and into some sandy stuff. I had to take relief and being sandy, it plugged. Then I duffed it and didn’t hit a good chip.”

Despite all that he was positive about a year which yielded six top-six finishes on the Europro Tour, including runner-up finishes in his first two events, the first of them to Moynihan.

“To sum up my whole year, it has been quite good, quite a successful year,” McElroy said. “I had a lot of great results and played a lot of great golf.

“I wanted to get a Challenge Tour card at the start of this and while I don’t have a full card, I’ll have a decent amount of starts for next year and hopefully it gets me a decent schedule and I can play like Gavin next year, got off to a hot start and get re-ranked.

As for the rest of the field, Simon Khan made the 72-hole cut to keep his dream of a European Tour return alive, with fledgeling professionals Adri Arnaus and Robert MacIntyre also producing notable performances after four rounds of the golfing marathon.

England’s Khan, a two-time European Tour winner, made the cut on the two under par mark after a three under par round of 68, with 74 players now set to contest the final 36 holes on the Lakes Course at Lumine Golf Club before the top 25 and ties secure Race to Dubai status for 2018.

“I gave it everything today,” Khan said. “It was one of the toughest days I’ve known and I’ve played really well all week, holed a couple of putts today, and to shoot three under today, I’ve done all I can and I’m quite proud of myself.

“There are still 36 holes, a long way to go, and I’m going back a long way now but I remember San Roque in 2001 when I shot a 65 in the fifth round, so it can be done and I’ll try to draw on that – I know what I can do, it’s just about getting the putter a bit warmer.

“It’s been a really odd year. It’s been my first time without a full European Tour card for 15 or 16 seasons and you see things from the other side, it’s tough.

“Getting calls late, not really knowing your schedule, not knowing what’s going on really. I haven’t had any momentum or felt like I’ve got anything going.

“Normally my ball striking is the strongest part of my game and even that hasn’t been there this year, but this week I came out really early and I just started getting it going – I’ve been hitting it probably the best I’ve hit it in a few years actually. It would be great to get a card now and kick on with this next year because I’m feeling good again.”

Ahead of him, compatriot Sam Horsfield leads the way on 15 under par, one shot ahead of fellow Englishman Charlie Ford whose seven under par 64 was the round of the day in Tarragona.

Meanwhile, Spain’s Arnaus – who only turned professional this week – continued his excellent 2017 form, which already saw him win the Alps Tour’s Order of Merit.

The 23-year-old reached five under par to comfortably make the cut, one of four Spaniards to do so on home soil, including Gonzalez Fernandez-Castaño – who has fellow seven-time European Tour winner Alvaro Quiros caddying for him this week.

Scotland’s MacIntyre was delighted to have secured himself a full Challenge Tour category for next season by making the cut just two months after he represented Great Britain & Ireland at the Walker Cup.

Another man happy to have secured Challenge Tour status was Jonathan Thomson, who will become the tallest player on the European Tour if he gets a card this week – standing at 6’9”, the Englishman is now in a share of third place on 12 under par.

“It was good out there today. I got off to a great start again by holing a few decent putts, but then I made a double bogey at the 13th which knocked my confidence a bit. I just stayed patient though as I knew that I could get a few more coming home.

“It has been a really good four days for me. My game has been in decent shape over the last few months so I came here in a very good frame of mind.

“The goal at the start of the year was to get off playing on the EuroPro Tour. I have achieved my goal by making the Challenge Tour, but I am now going to push on to try and get on to the European Tour.”

Leader Horsfield said: “I played pretty solid last week at Second Stage and the courses this week have just really suited me. I felt really confident coming in and I feel like my game is in a really good place right now so I just want to keep it going over the next two days.

“I haven’t really looked at a leaderboard all week. I left a few out there today – I think I hit 17 greens in regulation so I had a lot of opportunities. I just need to keep doing this over the next two days, make some putts and I will hopefully be alright.”

European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage, Lumine Golf Club (Lakes Course, Par 71; Hills Course, Par 72) Tarragona

After 72 of 108 holes (4 of 6 rounds)

Detailed scores

271 S Horsfield (Eng) 69 68 66 68; 

272 C Ford (Eng) 73 69 66 64; 

274 J Thomson (Eng) 67 72 68 67; C Blomstrand (Swe) 72 69 67 66; B Evans (Eng) 69 66 68 71; 

275 C Syme (Sco) 72 73 63 67; J Janewattananond (Tha) 74 71 65 65; 

276 K Broberg (Swe) 70 71 67 68; Gavin Moynihan (Irl) 69 72 67 68; M Baldwin (Eng) 71 69 68 68; 

277 J Heath (Eng) 72 68 68 69; J Winther (Den) 67 67 72 71; L Canter (Eng) 71 64 67 75; A Pavan (Ita) 65 68 71 73; 

278 P Widegren (Swe) 69 72 68 69; N Geyger (Chi) 67 74 69 68; T Murray (Eng) 70 63 75 70; C Braeunig (Ger) 70 70 67 71; A Hansen (Den) 71 71 69 67; J Kruyswijk (RSA) 71 71 70 66; M Millar (Aus) 74 67 69 68; G Stal (Fra) 64 71 73 70; M Schwab (Aut) 71 69 67 71; M Foster (Eng) 67 72 68 71; 

279 H Sturehed (Swe) 67 71 71 70; K Johannessen (Nor) 71 69 67 72; T Lewis (Eng) 75 69 68 67; N Kimsey (Eng) 68 73 70 68; J Quesne (Fra) 69 72 69 69; D Law (Sco) 68 73 70 68; G Fernandez - Castaño (Esp) 72 70 69 68; S Heisele (Ger) 72 67 70 70; J Edfors (Swe) 70 72 70 67; A Knappe (Ger) 69 72 69 69; 

280 S Gros (Fra) 70 69 74 67; M Nixon (Eng) 70 71 70 69; P Angles (Esp) 73 70 69 68; R Macintyre (Sco) 67 71 71 71; C Bezuidenhout (RSA) 69 69 72 70; F Aguilar (Chi) 73 70 68 69; Ó Serna (Mex) 68 72 67 73; O Lindell (Fin) 73 71 66 70; J Munro (Aus) 69 71 69 71; S Manley (Wal) 69 68 70 73; 

281 R McGowan (Eng) 72 71 68 70; M Schneider (Ger) 68 74 71 68; K Samooja (Fin) 73 69 69 70; A Arnaus (Esp) 70 70 71 70; J Walters (RSA) 75 71 66 69; 

282 J Geary (Nzl) 72 71 72 67; M Iten (Sui) 74 70 67 71; H Leon (Chi) 73 72 69 68; M Lafeber (Ned) 68 73 73 68; Ruaidhri McGee (Irl) 72 73 70 67; P Maddy (Eng) 77 68 70 67; P Howard (Eng) 73 66 74 69; L Gagli (Ita) 71 73 66 72; C Lloyd (Eng) 68 71 71 72; 

283 S Sharma (Ind) 75 73 68 67; A Hall (Aus) 73 69 70 71; P Mejow (Ger) 69 70 74 70; J Huldahl (Den) 67 75 69 72; E Johansen (Nor) 68 73 72 70; S Tiley (Eng) 72 70 68 73; E Park (Kor) 72 72 66 73; S Vincent (Zim) 72 72 69 70; 

284 J Hansen (Den) 72 73 70 69; S Webster (Eng) 69 74 73 68; M Armitage (Eng) 71 71 74 68; A Michael (RSA) 73 71 66 74; A Cañizares (Esp) 73 73 70 68; S Khan (Eng) 72 71 73 68; S Henry (Sco) 78 69 68 69; K Koivu (am) (Fin) 70 70 72 72;

Missed the cut

285 M Fenasse (Fra) 73 70 69 73; J Carlsson (Swe) 76 68 72 69; E Ferguson (Sco) 74 70 69 72; M Giles (Aus) 76 66 71 72; M Lundberg (Swe) 74 70 70 71; R Kellett (Sco) 77 67 69 72; Å Nilsson (Swe) 71 69 72 73; 

286 R Kakko (Fin) 69 78 70 69; B Easton (RSA) 69 73 75 69; T Cocha (Arg) 74 71 71 70; A Garcia-Heredia (Esp) 76 72 68 70; R Gonzalez (Arg) 71 73 69 73; R Green (Aus) 74 72 69 71; C Nilsson (Swe) 77 70 67 72; M Ford (Eng) 74 72 72 68; G Forrest (Sco) 73 72 71 70; J Rutherford (Eng) 72 72 70 72; E De La Riva (Esp) 73 71 71 71; O Wilson (Eng) 67 74 73 72; 

287 Cormac Sharvin (Nir) 74 74 67 72; L Nemecz (Aut) 70 73 72 72; M Jonzon (Swe) 72 73 71 71; E Di Nitto (Ita) 76 70 70 71; T Tree (Eng) 72 72 72 71; D Papadatos (Aus) 71 73 68 75; J Dean (Eng) 69 74 72 72; H Otto (RSA) 70 71 76 70; O Gillberg (am) (Swe) 73 75 67 72; 

288 S Gregory (Eng) 73 74 70 71; R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra) 72 75 70 71; A Blyth (Aus) 71 71 73 73; D Huizing (Ned) 73 72 70 73; F Dreier (Den) 72 74 76 66; P Pittayarat (Tha) 70 70 72 76; J Parry (Eng) 70 76 70 72; M Lampert (Ger) 73 72 71 72; N Fasth (Swe) 72 69 75 72; 

289 D Brown (Eng) 71 74 73 71; J Van Der Vaart (Ned) 69 74 75 71; J Erkenbeck (USA) 73 73 76 67; J Veerman (USA) 71 70 75 73; M Orrin (Eng) 72 72 71 74; S Dyson (Eng) 77 68 73 71; 

290 J Vecchi Fossa (Ita) 67 71 75 77; J Fernandez-Valdes (Arg) 78 70 70 72; N Cullen (Aus) 73 72 72 73; 

291 C Doak (Sco) 73 71 74 73; D Foos (Ger) 72 73 73 73; Dermot McElroy (Nir) 74 75 69 73; J Arnoy (Nor) 70 68 76 77; R McEvoy (Eng) 70 78 73 70; J Lima (Por) 74 69 75 73; B Hafthorsson (Isl) 73 72 74 72; 

292 F Fritsch (Ger) 75 74 68 75; A Rosaye (Fra) 72 77 71 72; A Rozner (Fra) 69 81 74 68; S Soderberg (Swe) 71 75 74 72; 

293 B Ritthammer (Ger) 82 71 70 70; J Stalter (Fra) 70 76 74 73; M Madsen (Den) 77 73 70 73; S Hutsby (Eng) 74 74 75 70; 

294 R Enoch (Wal) 74 77 72 71; M Kim (Kor) 76 74 74 70; T Sinnott (Aus) 74 73 77 70; M Trappel (Aut) 73 76 72 73; 

295 J Brun (Fra) 72 71 75 77; L Vaisanen (Fin) 77 74 72 72; 

296 A Meronk (Pol) 79 72 73 72; R Petersson (Swe) 73 73 68 82; 

297 J Sjöholm (Swe) 71 73 75 78; R Dinwiddie (Eng) 73 73 72 79; M Salminen (Fin) 71 72 78 76; 

299 D Stewart (Sco) 78 72 69 80