Monday 19 August 2019

Casey thrilled by Irish Open place after qualifier 'boost'

Christian Bezuidenhout of South Africa celebrates victory on the 18th green. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images
Christian Bezuidenhout of South Africa celebrates victory on the 18th green. Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Headfort's Brian Casey won the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open qualifier at Moyvalley to pocket €6,000 and immediately set his sights on a big pay-day at Lahinch.

The Navan man (28) followed a superb 66 with a three-under 69 to win by three strokes from Naas' Conor O'Rourke (27) and The Island's Paul McBride (23) on nine-under-par in the race for four precious spots in this week's $7 million Rolex Series event.

There was a three-way play-off for the final spot on five-under and Derry's Michael McGeady (41) grabbed it when he birdied the second extra hole to deny Castle amateur Robert Moran (19) and Old Conna's Neil O'Briain, draining a slippery six-footer at the 11th,

"I am absolutely delighted," said Casey, who planned to pull out of Final Qualifying for The Open at Notts tomorrow. "Just to win today means a lot. That prize money will keep me going for a while because you are living week to week on the Europro Tour and it's tough.

"This is a huge boost. I can't even contemplate playing for a $7 million purse when we are playing for €50,000 every week.

"I was supposed to play Final Qualifying for The Open on Tuesday, but it's 36 holes, and I wouldn't get a practice round for Lahinch as I don't get into Wednesday's Pro-Am. So I guess the Irish Open is my Major now!"

O'Rourke, who lost to Amateur champion James Sugrue in the 2017 South of Ireland final in his last amateur event, was "delighted" to shoot 68 and make it on six-under despite a bogey six at the last.

And there was relief too for former Walker Cup player McBride, who double-bogeyed the 16th and then bogeyed the 18th to shoot 72 and tie for second.

"I was more angry with myself than frustrated after being nine-under after 15 holes, but it's great to get through," said McBride, who twice led the stroke play qualifiers for the South at Lahinch. "It's my first of Irish Open, and the first of many, I hope."

Moran shot 69 and O'Briain a 70 before former Challenge Tour winner McGeady made a 25-footer for birdie at the 18th to join them on five-under.

South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout will head to Lahinch with a spring in his step after he earned his maiden European Tour win in the Estrella Damm Andalucía Masters at Valderrama and a place in The Open at Royal Portrush.

The South African's five-shot overnight lead was trimmed to just three strokes after he followed two opening birdies with four bogeys in his next five holes.

But he birdied the ninth, 10th and 11th and eventually signed for a level-par 71 to win by six shots on 10-under par from Spanish quartet Adri Arnaus, Alvaro Quiros, Jon Rahm and Eduardo de la Riva and Frenchman Mike Lorenzo Vera.

He also secured a Major championship debut alongside Lorenzo-Vera and Arnaus, who pipped de la Riva and Quiros for the other two Open exemptions thanks to their superior world ranking.

Amazing

"It's amazing," Bezuidenhout said. "It has always been a dream of mine to play in The Open."

On the Challenge Tour, England's Matthew Jordan claimed his maiden professional win when he beat Italy's Lorenzo Scalise in a play-off for the Italian Challenge Open Eneos Motor Oil at Terre dei Consoli Golf Club.

He shot a six-under 66 to Scalise's 65 to tie in 17-under par before winning with a par-three at the 16th in sudden-death to win €48,000 and move from 24th to second in the rankings.

Tramore's Robin Dawson shot a five-over 77 to fall 29 spots to tied 56th on level-par, earning €1,035 to move up to 73rd in the race for 15 European Tour cards.

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