Tuesday 27 June 2017

McGinley inspired by Chilean miners

Ireland's Paul McGinley takes a break at the 18th hole during the first round of the Portugal Masters tournament yesterday
Ireland's Paul McGinley takes a break at the 18th hole during the first round of the Portugal Masters tournament yesterday

Bernie McGuire in Villamoura

Like the whole world, Paul McGinley has been moved by the emotional scenes of the Chilean mine rescue.

Naturally, it was the first thing McGinley mentioned when shaking hands with Chilean golfer Felipe Aguilar on the first tee on day one of the Portugal Masters at Villamoura.

"The rescue of the miners is such a great story and, given there is so much bad news in the world, it's wonderful to have such a great story as that," said the Dubliner. "One of the things I said to Felipe was how impressed I was with the Chilean President and the way he spoke but it was all very emotional and it's such a wonderful story with such a wonderful ending."

McGinley had a pretty wonderful day himself, recording a six-under-par 66 and ending just two strokes behind the leading trio of Holland's Maarten Lafeber and the Swedish pair of Johan Edfors and Robert Karlsson who head the €3m event at eight-under-par.

Former Chilean Open winner Aguilar, though, saw his bogey putt at the last lip out in a score of 73.

McGinley was four-under par after six holes and then birdied his 11th and 13th holes in his best first round since a similar start in May's Madrid Masters.

Damien McGrane is next best of the Irish at five-under, and one stroke better than Peter Lawrie, Shane Lowry and Gareth Maybin.

Lawrie was lying in a share of fifth place on six-under with a hole to play but then thinned a bunker shot at the last on route to taking a double bogey in a score of 68.

"I just had one bad swing and that was at the last when I knifed my second shot out of a bunker," he said.

"So I've managed to turn a 66 into a 68 but then there's no point throwing all the toys out of the pram just yet."

In contrast, Lowry was pleased to birdie his closing hole. The former Irish Open winner was three-under par through five holes before dropping his only shot at the 11th in finding a water hazard.

Lowry then birdied 14 before the shot of his round, a three-wood from 230 yards out at the par-four 18th that pulled up 10 feet short of the hole from where he rolled in the birdie putt.

"I gave myself a lot of chances out there but then to birdie the last, that is such a tough hole, so dinner is going to taste really nice tonight," said Lowry.

Co Down-based Simon Thornton, meanwhile, had a truly unusual day.

Thornton was on holidays with his wife and child when he got a phone call from a Tour official wondering if he could tee up in the Portugal event as England's Danny Willett had withdrawn due to a rib injury.

Thornton, whose season looked to have ended when he missed the cut last week in Scotland, arrived in Portugal without his golf clubs.

"I got a phone call about an hour and a quarter ago saying someone had pulled out, so I had a coffee down at the marina and got a taxi up to the course," he said.

Borrowed

"I managed to hire a set of clubs off the local pro here, and I borrowed a pair of shoes, bought myself a pair of trousers, and grabbed some balls and a few gloves from a few of the other boys."

Thornton got to the range 25 minutes before his 12.50 tee time in the company of Ryder Cup-winning duo Miguel Angel Jimenez and Edoardo Molinari.

"I got to the tee and started bogey, bogey and thought 'that's not bad'," he said after finishing with a level-par round of 72.

When asked the reaction on the tee when greeted by his illustrious playing partners, Thornton remarked: "Miguel was great -- he said to me 'Simon Willett, who's he?'.

"But the whole day has just been bizarre as nothing like this has ever happened to me before."

Michael Hoey had a 70 while Darren Clarke was three-under par with five holes to play but finished bogey, birdie, quadruple bogey, birdie and par for a 72. Clarke put two balls into the water off the tee at the par-four seventh that he was playing as his 16th but then, at the next hole, he chipped in from 25 feet for birdie.

Portugal Masters

Sky Sports 3, 11.30

Irish Independent

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