Ruaidhri roars back in Turkish Airlines Challenge
Lorenzo Gagli of Italy. Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images

Lorenzo Gagli of Italy. Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images

Derry's Ruaidhri McGee rattled in six back nine birdies to lead the seven-strong Irish challenge with a three-under 69 in the Turkish Airlines Challenge at Gloria Golf Club.

Three over after three back-nine birdies at Gloria Golf Club, he came home in a sizzling 31 to finish three shots behind a seven-man leading group in Antalya.

Gavin Moynihan's luck might also be changing after he recovered from an early triple bogey seven to card a 71 that left him just inside the cut mark alongside Tullamore's Stuart Grehan and Galgorm Castle's Michael Hoey (17 pars and one birdie) on one-under.

West Waterford's Gary Hurley birdied three of his last four holes to match Clandeboye's Jonathan Caldwell with a level par 72 as Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin struggled to a 75.

Italy's Lorenzo Gagli, New Zealand’s Josh Geary, Finland’s Kim Koivu, England’s Nathan Kimsey, Sweden’s Oscar Lengden and Scots Robert MacIntyre and Ewen Ferguson shot six-under 66s to lead by one.

Gagli secured his first Challenge Tour triumph after 12 years as a professional last month when he overcame Sweden’s Jens Fahrbring in a three-hole playoff at the season-opening Barclays Kenya Open.

That win propelled the 32-year-old to the top of the Road to Ras Al Khaimah Rankings, and Gagli played like a champion in Antalya on Thursday, carding six birdies and an eagle en route to a first round 66.

Although nothing currently separates the leading players, Gagli believes he has the upper hand on the rest of the field having already won the season’s most lucrative event – and admits ‘a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.’

“After the win in Kenya it’s fun to come back and today I was much more relaxed than last year,” he said.

“To win the first event of the season was huge and to get my first Challenge Tour win after so long felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

“I woke up this morning with a really bad pain in my neck and my shoulder and I thought it would be a tough day but it was a good day.

“I think it could have been much lower but I’m happy with six under. I missed two short putts and made two bogeys but I had a lot of opportunities to make birdies.

“The course is great and the conditions were perfect today – everything was beautiful.

“The most important thing you need to get right to do well here is your second shot. You have to hit good irons into the flag because from the tee it’s pretty open. The most important shot is definitely your second one.

“I was really relaxed today and when you’re relaxed, you play much, much better.”   

Koviu, who won the Belt and Road Colourful Yunnan Open two weeks ago, also carried on his excellent run with an opening round that included seven birdies.

One shot back is a chasing pack of eight players which includes five-time Challenge Tour winner Sam Walker who bagged five birdies and carded a blemish-free five under par round of 67.

Turkish Airlines Challenge, Gloria Golf Club, Antalya, Turkey (Par 72)

Detailed scores

66 K Koivu (Fin), L Gagli (Ita), J Geary (Nzl), R Macintyre (Sco), E Ferguson (Sco), O Lengden (Swe), N Kimsey (Eng), 

67 F Laporta (Ita), P Mejow (Ger), A Knappe (Ger), S Walker (Eng), G Porteous (Eng), S Manley (Wal), R Santos (Por), D Foos (Ger), 

68 N Lemke (Swe), S Webster (Eng), N Møller (Den), C Braeunig (Ger), E España (Fra), C Mivis (Bel), T Linard (Fra), G Stal (Fra), E Goya (Arg), L Cianchetti (Ita), E Cuartero Blanco (Esp), S Heisele (Ger), A Meronk (Pol), 

69 S Khan (Eng), M Orrin (Eng), R Roussel (Fra), N Geyger (Chi), J Singh Brar (Eng), M Madsen (Den), J Hansen (Den), B Hellgren (Swe), Ruaidhri McGee (Irl), J Senior (Eng), F Aguilar (Chi), 

70 M Schmitt (Ger), M Salminen (Fin), M Fenasse (Fra), P Howard (Eng), K Samooja (Fin), A Leitmannstetter (Ger), L Van Meijel (Ned), R Davies (Wal), R Finch (Eng), B Stow (Eng), J Huldahl (Den), S Soderberg (Swe), M Gradecki (Pol), M Ford (Eng), C Saxon (USA), M Nixon (Eng), E Johansen (Nor), A Rozner (Fra), R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra), A Michael (RSA), J Lando Casanova (Fra), T Murray (Eng), M Kim (Kor), D Perrier (Fra), 

71 B Eccles (Aus), D Stewart (Sco), S Forsström (Swe), S Tiley (Eng), G Forrest (Sco), Gavin Moynihan (Irl), F Maccario (Ita), O Stark (Swe), J Girrbach (Sui), Stuart Grehan (Irl), M Søgaard (Den), E Di Nitto (Ita), N Marsh (Eng), J Quesne (Fra), U Coussaud (Fra), J Stalter (Fra), V Riu (Fra), Michael Hoey (Nir), 

72 D Boote (Wal), M Lundberg (Swe), C Doak (Sco), J Lima (Por), Jonathan Caldwell (Nir), A Altuntas (Tur), M Armitage (Eng), A Tadini (Ita), V Perez (Fra), L Johnston (Sco), N Von Dellingshausen (Ger), B Virto (Esp), Gary Hurley (Irl), S Henry (Sco), G Migliozzi (Ita), Ó Serna (Mex), M Iten (Sui), J Arnoy (Nor), R Van West (Ned), M Penney (Eng), J Freiburghaus (am) (Sui), 

73 L Nemecz (Aut), D Løkke (Den), S Dyson (Eng), P Figueiredo (Por), K Johannessen (Nor), A Arnaus (Esp), Å Nilsson (Swe), F Mruzek (Cze), B Ritthammer (Ger), T Lewis (Eng), 

74 A Karlsson (Swe), K Hesbois (Bel), P Valasek (Svk), A Ahokas (Fin), P Maddy (Eng), M Trappel (Aut), H Yamac (Tur), J Marin (Esp), M Schneider (Ger), J Abbott (Eng), T Santos Silva (Por), 

75 S Matus (Cze), Cormac Sharvin (Nir), R Saxton (Ned), H Sayin (Tur), J Thomson (Eng), B Kara (Tur), B Karatas (Tur), B Moore (Eng), A Boasson (Isl), M Ovesen (Den), M Pastor (Esp), 

76 M Carlsson (Swe), R Kellett (Sco), D Law (Sco), J Cafourek (Cze), J Sjöholm (Swe), S Hutsby (Eng), C Feldborg Nielsen (Swe), 

77 O Lindell (Fin), J Doherty (Sco), H Esmer (am) (Tur), 

78 M Lafeber (Ned), D Berna Manzanares (Esp), H Leon (Chi), J Ramos (Por), 

79 P Dedek (Cze), L Acikalin (am) (Tur), 

81 D Senay (Tur), K McClatchie (RSA), P Gal (Cze), A Telli (am) (Tur), 

83 M Guner (am) (Tur), 

85 T Yamac (am) (Tur).