IRISHMAN Simon Thornton managed to fire an excellent first-round 69 at the IPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor, despite difficult conditions, for a share of fourth place.
The 35-year-old has made the cut just twice in seven outings this year, but negotiated the gales which howled across the 2010 Course yesterday, moving into fourth place, two shy of leader Lee Slattery.
The 67 posted by 33-year-old Englishman Slattery was special indeed in harrowing conditions.
With fairways running fast, greens hard and several forbidding pins, there were more than 20 scores in the 80s and one in the 90s (Singapore's Zhiqun Lam shot 92) while a handful had a 10 on their card ... Gary Boyd had two.
Englishman Boyd had two sextuple bogey 10s in an 88, then quit, complaining of feeling "sick and dizzy".
Prominent among the strugglers were defending champion Alex Noren and Offaly's Shane Lowry, both of whom shot 81.
Noren withdrew afterwards due to a back problem.
And Clara man Lowry, who failed to land a birdie as he matched his worst round in three years on Tour, was hampered by a viral infection forcing him to withdraw also.
Thornton was born in Bradford but acquired a good wind game (and Irish citizenship) during 10 years in Newcastle, Co Down.
He bogeyed the first but picked up four birdies on the way out before his putter cooled on the back nine.
Damien McGrane shared 12th on even par after his battling 71, while Paul McGinley and Peter Lawrie played nicely but grappled with the putter as rounds of 72 left them just outside the top 20.