Wednesday 28 September 2016

Thornton leads charge but McGee implodes

Published 16/11/2015 | 02:30

Ruaidhri McGee has imploded at the final qualifying school at Catalunya in Spain
Ruaidhri McGee has imploded at the final qualifying school at Catalunya in Spain

Simon Thornton is spearheading the Irish challenge after two rounds of the final qualifying school at Catalunya in Spain in a bid to regain his European Tour card.

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The 38-year-old, based at Newcastle, County Down, fired a 67 yesterday for a 138 total and similar performances over the next four days will secure his card.

The former Ulster PGA champion had nine straight pars to the turn and then three birdies to come home in 32.

Paul Dunne, the Open Championship hero from Greystones, is just a stroke behind Thornton after rounds of 71 and 68, helped yesterday by birdies on six and 10.

Also on 139 is Damien McGrane, who had a mixed round, which included a double bogey six on the third,four birdies,two bogeys and an eagle three on the 10th.

Kevin Phelan, the experienced international who has qualified for the US Open as an amateur and played all four rounds, has work to do after posting scores of 70 and 72, while Brian Casey, who jointly led the second-stage qualifiers, virtually lost his chance of a card in the opening round on Saturday when he crashed to a 76.

A seven-stroke improvement yesterday gave him a glimmer of hope, although he will have to be at his best over the next four days. Peter Lawrie is also on the 145 mark and in a difficult position.

But the Irishman completely in the wilderness is Ruaidhri McGee (above), who after a splendid opening 64 inexplicably took 87 yesterday when the wheels completely came off.

He dropped 10 strokes on three holes, taking nine on the 13th, seven on the 15th and five on the short 16th. Leading the way at Catalunya after 36 holes are Italian Filippo Bergamaschi and Austrian Lukas Nemecz, with totals of 133.

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