Hurley secures matchplay spot with top four in Portugal
 Gary Hurley in full flow. Picture: Jimmy Penrose

Gary Hurley in full flow. Picture: Jimmy Penrose

West Waterford's Gary Hurley secured his best finish for two years and a place in the Andalucia - Costa del Sol Match Play 9 on Thursday when he tied for fourth in the Challenge Tour's Open de Portugal.

Just two strokes off the lead on a packed leaderboard at Morgado Golf and Country Club overnight, the former Walker Cup star (25) mixed two birdies with two bogeys before he got to within two shots of the lead with an eagle at the par-five 16th.

But he bogeyed the last and signed for a one-under 71 that left him tied for fourth on four-under, three strokes behind Australian Dimitrios Papadatos, who shot 69 to win by two shots from Portugal's José-Filipe Lima and Frenchman Antoine Rozner (70) on seven-under par.

Hurley —who made two eagles, 15 birdies and 15 bogeys— picked up €9,100 for his four-way tie for fourth, which was his best finish on tour since he tied for fourth in the Challenge Tour's Montecchia Open by Lyoness exactly two years ago.

The cheque leaves him 37th in the Road to Ras Al Khaimah Rankings after just three starts, 9,000 points outside the top 15 who gain promotion with the top-10 finish crucially earning him a spot in Andalucia - Costa del Sol Match Play 9 at Valle Romano Golf.

That event proved key for Gavin Moynihan last year when he reached the final to get full Challenge Tour status and Hurley, who has just Category 17 membership of the Challenge Tour after finishing 136th in the Rankings last year, now has another chance to make hay.

Ballymena's Dermot McElroy was the next best of the Irish, tied for 45th on four-over after a 73 with Tullamore's Stuart Grehan (76) 63rd on 10-over and Moyola Park's Chris Selfridge (79) two shots further back in 69th.

It was clearly a huge week for Papadatos, who was one of eight players a shot behind leaders José-Filipe Lima and Stuart Manley before he opened with two birdies in his first four holes and never looked back.

A three-time winner on the PGA Tour of Australasia, he rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt at the tenth to extend his advantage over the chasing pack and despite dropping a shot at the par five 16th, he rallied to bag his fourth gain of the day at the par three 17th.

After coping with the windy conditions all day the man from Sydney was left with a tricky eight-foot par putt on the 18th, but he holed out with aplomb to set the clubhouse target at seven under par.

With home favourite Lima unable to birdie the 18th to force a play-off it was Papadatos who was crowned champion, and he was delighted to have claimed his first victory in Europe.

“It feels pretty good and a big relief, especially after the last couple of days,” he said. 

“It’s been very windy and difficult, you had to grind out results in such a bunched field when it’s very hard to break away and get in front. But I was fortunate enough to do that in the end.

“I played the course well today. I was very solid finishing long par putts, and I didn’t threaten to make many birdies as I was hitting it poorly today. But I hung in there and my short game was good, and I took a couple of opportunities when I got them.

“I’ve had a couple of wins back in Aus, and I’ve never won in Europe, so it’s maybe not the biggest, but it’s definitely the most important as it’s going to get me going over here.

“I’ve been trying the last two or three years to get myself going in Europe and onto the main tour, so this is a big step forward, and it’s going to help me out a lot.

“I flew into Portugal on Monday lunchtime and only booked my flights last Friday, so this tournament wasn’t even on my radar.

“I was just going to come over for Walton Heath for the US Open qualifier, but with my category, I happened to get in here. I was second reserve for Spain next week, so the win might sneak me in there now.”

In fact, Papadatos moved to the top of the exemption list for the Andalucia - Costa del Sol Match Play 9 and also moves to ninth place on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah Rankings with 32,000 points.

Lima, whose share of second place is the highest finish by a Portuguese player in their home open, also rises up the Rankings and now occupies 16th place with 16,350 points.

56º Open de Portugal @ Morgado Golf Resort, Morgado Golf Resort (Par 72)

Detailed scores

281 D Papadatos (Aus) 73 66 73 69, 

283 A Rozner (Fra) 72 71 70 70, J Lima (Por) 74 68 69 72, 

284 J Davidson (Wal) 70 70 72 72, A Arnaus (Esp) 67 71 74 72, Gary Hurley (Irl) 70 69 74 71, T Cruz (Por) 70 73 72 69, 

285 E Ferguson (Sco) 73 69 72 71, J Girrbach (Sui) 71 68 77 69, M Cort (Eng) 73 69 73 70, P Figueiredo (Por) 71 71 70 73, G King (Eng) 75 69 74 67, 
286 K Koivu (Fin) 73 69 73 71, 

287 J Allan (Eng) 70 76 71 70, I Cantero Gutierrez (Esp) 70 75 71 71, R Davies (Wal) 70 75 69 73, A Meronk (Pol) 72 71 69 75, L Nemecz (Aut) 69 71 73 74, F Mruzek (Cze) 74 69 72 72, M Carlsson (Swe) 75 70 69 73, V Lopes (am) (Por) 69 74 71 73, 

288 S Forsström (Swe) 70 72 74 72, S Manley (Wal) 73 70 68 77, O Edwards (Wal) 69 76 72 71, G Porteous (Eng) 72 73 72 71, J Carlota (Por) 73 69 73 73, J Singh Brar (Eng) 76 65 71 76, 

289 L Van Meijel (Ned) 71 74 76 68, A Karlsson (Swe) 71 69 74 75, D Dixon (Eng) 71 72 75 71, R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra) 73 71 74 71, U Coussaud (Fra) 73 71 72 73, S Soderberg (Swe) 73 71 73 72, J Pastor (Esp) 72 71 72 74, 

290 O Lengden (Swe) 74 68 70 78, M Kim (Kor) 72 71 73 74, B Parker (Eng) 74 71 74 71, D Huizing (Ned) 72 74 71 73, J Freiburghaus (am) (Sui) 73 71 70 76, 

291 M Fenasse (Fra) 75 71 69 76, A Ahokas (Fin) 73 71 73 74, V Riu (Fra) 73 72 71 75, R Enoch (Wal) 71 73 76 71, R Roussel (Fra) 73 73 71 74, 

292 R Santos (Por) 74 72 77 69, Dermot McElroy (Nir) 70 75 74 73, B Moore (Eng) 72 71 76 73, S Henry (Sco) 71 71 76 74, J Brun (Fra) 74 72 71 75, R De Sousa (Sui) 72 74 70 76, 

293 R Kakko (Fin) 70 72 80 71, W Besseling (Ned) 72 72 77 72, T Tree (Eng) 72 70 78 73, M Salminen (Fin) 72 74 72 75, 

294 M Haastrup (Den) 73 70 82 69, J Cafourek (Cze) 73 71 74 76, B Virto (Esp) 73 70 74 77, J Senior (Eng) 71 75 73 75, M Lampert (Ger) 73 73 74 74, 

295 A Chapman (Eng) 71 73 76 75, H Casey (Eng) 74 71 74 76, 

296 J Abbott (Eng) 74 71 71 80, 

298 D Berna Manzanares (Esp) 70 73 75 80, P Tarver-Jones (Eng) 75 70 74 79, L Cohen-Boyer (Fra) 73 70 79 76, Stuart Grehan (Irl) 75 71 76 76, 

299 S Robertshawe (Eng) 73 73 75 78, T Santos Silva (Por) 74 72 76 77, 

300 Chris Selfridge (Nir) 73 73 75 79.

CUT (146)

147 Cormac Sharvin (Nir) 69 78

149 Jonny Caldwell (Nir) 75 74

153 Conor O’Rourke (Irl) 76 77

154 Jack Hume (Irl) 73 81