Cutler off pace in bid to secure Tour card
WALKER CUP hero Paul Cutler made a hugely disappointing start to his bid to secure his European Tour card yesterday.
Playing at Frilford Heath in Oxfordshire, Cutler, who collected three and a half points out of four at Royal Aberdeen, was at sixes and sevens in his first round and crashed to a disappointing five-over-par 77.
That was all of 10 strokes worse than leader Dale Whitnell, the former Walker Cup player.
Mark Stainton was the top Irish player at Frilford Heath with a 72, while Waterville's David Higgins took 74 and Dara Lernihan 75.
Chris Devlin, John Kelly and Michael McGeady were in hot pursuit of graduation places as their first-stage qualifier got under way at Ribagolf near Lisbon.
Devlin, Kelly and McGeady each posted a satisfying two-under-par 70 for a share of fifth place at the Portuguese venue. They trailed early pace-setter Tiago Rodrigues by six after the local amateur shot a sensational 64.
With the top 25 finishers on Friday to qualify for stage two in the first week of December, US-based Ballymena man Devlin, Derry native McGeady and Dubliner Kelly -- the highly rated teaching pro at St Margarets -- were all well in contention.
Devlin (36) has been resident in Florida and has played on satellite tours in the States since his days as a college team-mate of Graeme McDowell at the University of Alabama.
Ballyliffin's Brendan McCarroll also opened brightly in Portugal.
His one-under-par 71 was good enough for a share of 14th place, while Fergal Rafferty, from Omagh via Sam Houston State University in Texas, compiled a 73.
Tomas O'Flynn, of Fota Island, shot a 77.
Details in Factfile