Sunday 19 November 2017

Moynihan and McElroy belie amateur status in composed recovery from nightmare start

Pair overcome blunders to finish with better cards than pro superstar Rory

Gavin Moynihan drives off the ninth tee on his way to a 69. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Gavin Moynihan drives off the ninth tee on his way to a 69. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Karl MacGinty

By chilling coincidence, Ireland's top-ranked amateurs both had to recover from nightmare scenarios on Fota Island's par four first hole, but Gavin Moynihan and Dermot McElroy held their composure brilliantly to outscore superstar Rory McIlroy.

Moynihan (19), the Walker Cup star who has just completed his first year on a golf scholarship at the University of Alabama, forced himself into a share of 22nd place with triple-Major winner Padraig Harrington on two-under-par with a superb 69. The only hiccup in an otherwise faultless round was a double-bogey six at one, his 10th hole, after the ever-steady Island prospect blocked his tee shot way right and out of bounds.

"That's one of the worst drives I've hit in a long time," confessed Moynihan, who soared to sixth in the world amateur rankings with last month's victory at the Scottish Stroke Play and currently lies 10th.

"I was really pleased to come back with three birdies in the next five," he added. "I really played well to come in two-under-par. I hit a nice shot on the par-three third to about 10 feet and made it; was just short of the par-five fourth in two and chipped and putted and made a nice birdie on six.

"I like this course, it kind of fits my eye. Apart from one, I drove the ball well, which was key, because the rough's so lush it's unbelievable," explained Moynihan, who was disappointed to miss the cut by one on his Irish Open debut at Carton House last June but has a good chance of making amends this weekend.

"I was flying last year but got a bit nervous down the last few holes," said Moynihan, who played just four out of 12 matches for Alabama on the crack US college side's charge to the NCAA title this year but should make a major impact next season now that three seniors have moved on.

Especially now that he has recovered his scoring touch at Fota with a new Odyssey counter-balanced putter with a weight at the top of the grip and a heavy head.

"My putting's been holding me back all year," he admitted. "Even when I won the Scottish amateur, I putted terrible."

Ballymena prospect McElroy, who turned 21 last Friday, endured a fate worse than Moynihan's when he and seasoned Scottish professional Chris Doak, (36), played each other's ball from the first fairway, despite a 20 yards difference between them.

In an incident mirroring last Friday's hiatus between Hunter Mahan and Jamie Donaldson during the second round of the US Open at Pinehurst, Doak mistakenly hit McElroy's ball into the green and the Ulsterman unwittingly responded in kind, both of them only discovering their error when they reached the green.

Both incurred a two-stroke penalty and had to replay the shots, Doak hitting his to 20-feet and making the putt for bogey while the unfortunate McElroy took three to get down from the fairway as he chalked up a horror seven.

Yet he recovered brilliantly from this setback, rebounding with two birdies in the next three holes and collecting another on the notoriously difficult par-four eighth for a fighting two-over-par 73.

"I didn't hole much," said McElroy, who made a three-putt bogey at 18.

"Yet I was happy with the way I recovered after what happened and without that triple bogey, it would have been quite a decent round."

Doak, who has played the wrong ball before, overcame his frustration to round-off a 69. Mahan and Donaldson missed the halfway cut at Pinehurst but McElroy certainly has everything to play for today.

On a hugely-eventful day for Ireland's amateurs, West Waterford's Gary Hurley, (21), landed the only eagle in the first round, thrilling spectators who travelled from Suirside to cheer him on at his first Irish Open.

Hurley, a Paddy Harrington Golf Scholarship student at NUI Maynooth, set up his spectacular eagle at four when he "rinsed a drive down the middle; hit a 250-yards three-wood to 20-feet and holed the putt."

Though delighted with his short game and putting during a one-over 72 he went straight to the range to brush up on his driving before today's second round.

Irish Independent

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