SIMON THORNTON propelled himself straight into contention with a first-round 67 in the Roma Golf Open yesterday, leaving the Co Down resident four off the pace set by Anthony Grenier of France with a blistering eight-under-par 63 .
While Thornton rides high at No 15 in the Challenge Tour Order of Merit, well on course for one of the European Tour playing credentials on offer to the top 20 after next month's Grand Final in Italy, he's still playing for one of the premium cards to be awarded to those who finish in the top 10.
Colm Moriarty came up short as he opened his last-ditch bid to make the 45-man field at the Grand Final. Currently 66th in the money list, the Glasson stalwart needs a top-three finish at Olgiata Golf Club to qualify but was in mid-table after his first-round 71.
Dubliner Niall Kearney tumbled to the foot of the leaderboard as he opened the final event of the regular season on the Challenge Tour with an 80.