Kearney, Thornton lose ground as scoring hots up
Ireland's hopefuls failed to take full advantage of perfect scoring conditions as the race for European Tour cards heated up considerably in the third round of the Qualifying School finals at PGA Golf de Catalunya.
As temperatures rose as high as 18C and the winds of the opening days abated, more than 100 players in the field broke par, most of them on the easier Tour Course.
They included Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney and adopted Irishman Simon Thornton. But while Kearney fired a three-under 67 and the former Royal County Down assistant a two-under 68 on the shorter Tour Course, they still went backwards in a race to make the top 30 and ties after six rounds.
It was a case of an opportunity missed for both players as Scotland's Lloyd Saltman (64), Spain's Alfredo Garcia Heredia (64) and England's Steven Lewton (66) topped the leaderboard on 11-under-par after burning up the Tour Course yesterday.
Having made the turn in one-under par thanks to birdies at the first and sixth and a solitary bogey at the tough fifth, Kearney (22) scorched up the leaderboard when he holed a slick 25-footer for an eagle three at the 10th to get to three-under for the day.
But he then bogeyed the 14th and 15th to undo his good work, before repairing some of the damage by holing birdie putts of 20 and 10 feet at the 16th and 18th.
"It was up and down, but I was under par again," Kearney said philosphically. "I feel that I left a lot of shots out there because I had loads of chances for birdies, shaved the hole a few times and lipped out.
"I feel I should have been six or seven-under, but I have to take three. Overall I'm happy enough with three rounds to go. It's only halfway and there are plenty of chances to be had on the Stadium Course tomorrow."
It was a similar story for Thornton, who picked up four birdies in his first 10 holes before bad swings led to bogeys at the 11th and 14th followed by a handful of missed birdie chances on the run home.
"I should have been four, five or six-under par," said Thornton, who is tied for 59th on three-under. But there's no point in thinking more about it. We're only at halfway and the game is there."
Glasson's Colm Moriarty shot a level-par 72 on the Stadium Course, falling 22 places to 99th on one-over par.
He is three shots outside the top 70 and ties who will play the last two rounds on the Stadium Course, but he was looking the other direction and praying for another day of good weather heading to the Tour Course today.
"I'm not hitting it close enough and not holing the putts when I do," Moriarty said. "On the front nine, I was struggling off the tee and very lucky to get away with it. But level par is no disaster.
"Let's hope the other course is scoreable tomorrow and I can shoot a few under. There's a score to be had there if you play well. It's just a matter of doing it."
While Moriarty has an excellent chance of progressing, Belfast's Damian Mooney will need one of the rounds of the week to survive the cut after a five-over 77 on the Stadium Course left him tied for 128th on six-over par.