Monday 26 September 2016

Mehaffey leads the way as Irish trio spearhead Curtis Cup bid

Chris Smart

Published 10/06/2016 | 02:30

Padraig Harrington hits off the seventh tee during the first round of the FedEx St Jude Classic at TPC Southwind. Picture Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Padraig Harrington hits off the seventh tee during the first round of the FedEx St Jude Classic at TPC Southwind. Picture Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Irish influence in the opening session of the 39th Curtis Cup match at Dun Laoghaire this morning will be huge, with the host country represented in each of the three foursomes.

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It will be an occasion to savour for brilliant teenager Olivia Mehaffey, the Irish and Welsh Stroke Play champion who will be in the first foursomes match out on the course.

The Royal County Down player lines up with English star Bronte Law, who will be making her third Curtis Cup appearance.

They take on Hannah O'Sullivan, the world No 1, and Mariel Galdiano - and Mehaffey is relishing the biggest challenge of her rapidly blossoming career.

"The last few days have been great. We have done a lot of structured work and have played foursomes and fourballs.

"Now we are all raring to go,"said the world's eighth ranked player.

Challenge

Leona Maguire, the world No 2, has also thoroughly enjoyed the preparation and is really looking forward to the challenge of getting the trophy back "on the right side of the Atlantic".

Maguire, a student at Duke University in California, teams up with South Africa-based Charlotte Thomas in the second foursomes against Andrea Lee and Mika Liu.

Maria Dunne, the third Irish player in the team, partners Northamptonshire's Meghan MacLaren and they face Baily Tardy and Monica Vaughn.

Alice Hewson and Rochelle Morris will sit out the opening session.

The Americans are warm favourites to retain the trophy, having won 13-7 in St Louis two years ago.

All their players are in the world's top 30 but the team spirit in the Great Britain and Ireland camp is tremendous and captain Elaine Farquharson-Black is quietly confident they can emulate the team that won in Killarney in 1996 - the only other occasion the Curtis Cup has been played in Ireland.

This afternoon there are three fourballs, and the opening-day format is repeated tomorrow, with eight singles contested on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington had eight bogeys and only one birdie as he slumped to a seven-over-par 77 in the first round of the Fed-Ex St Jude Classic. Graeme McDowell returned a 73.

South Korea's Seung-Yul Noh and Tom Hoge set the early pace on set the early pace on 65 - one better than Jamie Donaldson and Dustin Johnson.

Elsewhere, Adrian Otaegui set the pace in the Lyoness Open as defending champion Chris Wood suffered a disappointing end to his opening round in Austria.

Otaegui carded eight birdies in a flawless 64 at Diamond Country Club to equal the course record set in 2014 by American Daniel Im - one of the players with whom he finished joint first in the European Tour qualifying school last November.

At eight under par, the 23-year-old protege of double Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal ended the day two shots ahead of South African Zander Lombard, with France's Gary Stal a further shot back.

Wood, who came into the event on the back of his victory in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth a fortnight ago, started his round on the back nine and reached three under par thanks to birdies on the 12th, 15th and second.

The world No 23 immediately bounced back from a bogey on the fifth with another birdie on the next, only to find water off the tee on the eighth and ninth and bogey both holes in a 71.

Michael Hoey shot 72, while Peter Lawrie and Paul Dunne both took 76. Ryder Cup vice-captain Thomas Bjorn retired with a back injury after 15 holes.

Foursomes (Great Britain and Ireland names first) - B Law and O Mehaffey v H O' Sullivan and M Galdiano; C Thomas and L Maguire v A Lee and M Lui; M Maclaren and M Dunne v B Tardy and M Vaughn.

Curtis Cup,

Highlights, Sky Sports 4, 8.00pm

Irish Independent

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