Moriarty desperate to end hard school term on real high
Colm Moriarty has an irresistible urge to scratch his seven-year itch and claim his ticket to the big time when he tees it up in the European Tour Qualifying School final stage in Spain today.
The 31-year-old from Athlone is coming to the end of his seventh season in the professional ranks and after four previously unsuccessful visits to the gruelling final stage, he's keen to play all six rounds at PGA de Catalunya near Girona in north east Spain and finish among the top-30 and ties who will earn the right to compete in the 2011 Race to Dubai.
Joined in his quest by big-hitting Belfast man Damian Mooney, the Royal Dublin star Niall Kearney and former Royal County Down assistant Simon Thornton, Moriarty's modest season had one shining moment that proved he can perform on the brightest stage.
In July, he qualified for the British Open at St Andrews, playing the first two rounds with the eventual winner Louis Oosthuizen en route to a laudable 37th-place finish on his Major championship debut.
He had hoped to kick on from there and bypass the 'school' by graduating through the Challenge Tour rankings. However, despite the fact that he failed to record the "one big week" he needed to make the jump, his performance at the British Open has reinforced his self-belief.
"The fact I played ok here and felt quite comfortable is probably more important to me than where I finished," he said at the Home of Golf. "It makes me feel I'm not out of place when I get out here. I'm not afraid of being out here."
This is no last chance saloon for the touring professional for Glasson Golf Hotel, but he believes his hard graft will eventually pay off.
"I have had a frustrating six or seven years since I turned pro. But I've had some decent performances too," he said. "I still think I'm improving and if I eventually get on tour, it will all have been worthwhile."
The 156-man field will make a later start than scheduled to today's first round on the Stadium and Tour courses at PGA Golf de Catalunya with early morning frost pushing back the start by 90 minutes to 10.30.
The field will play two rounds on each course over the first four days with the top-70 and ties on Tuesday night set to battle it out for a place in the vital top-30 over the Stadium Course over the last two rounds.
Big names in action include former Ryder Cup players Andrew Coltart, Jarmo Sandelin and Paul Broadhurst (45), the six-time European Tour winner whose exemption through the all-time money winners list ran out this year.
The presence in the field of Scotland's Marc Warren -- a World Cup winner with Colin Montgomerie just three years ago -- shows just how tough the professional game has now become.
Huddersfield-born Thornton, now flying the flag for Ireland, earned his card here last year but despite earning €116,954 from 22 starts, he finished 141st on the money list and must now do it all over again.
Kearney (22) played all six rounds last year, narrowly failing to earn his European Tour card. He played a handful of events on the Challenge Tour before a shoulder injury kept him out of action until last month.
"I have a medical exemption for the Challenge Tour next year," Kearney said. "But the plan is to go out and get one of those 30 cards. I'll be happy if I play as well from tee to green as I did last year. I just need to hole a few more putts."
Mooney (42) is back at the finals for just the second time since he failed to make the grade in 2007 and after a stellar season on the domestic circuit that saw him finish second on the Race to Mount Juliet, he's in superb form.
A bull of a man, he's cruised through the first two stages of the 'school' and if he can find the short-game touch to match his power, he has more than enough game to achieve the holy grail. If he does it, he will have played 252 holes of pressure-packed golf.
Irish tee times
Today (Tomorrow) -- Stadium Course (Tour Course) -- N Kearney 12.0 (9.55); S Thornton 12.15 (10.0); C Moriarty 12.30 (10.25)
Tour Course (Stadium Course) -- D Mooney 11.55 (9.45).