Friday 23 March 2018

Leonard masters wind to storm into last 16

Mark Wehrly

RORY LEONARD scorched his way into the last 16 at the Radisson-Blu West of Ireland Championship in Rosses Point, shooting a remarkable 10-under par in high winds for the 27 holes he required to see off Stephen Crowe and Ben Best.

Leonard threw seven birdies at Dunmurry’s Crowe in their firstround match, winning at the 13th green, before unleashing another four-birdie barrage, without a single bogey, against Rathmore’s Best to book a clash with Pat Murray of Limerick this morning.

“I had a great start,” said Leonard, reflecting on his four birdies in the first five holes of his first-round match.

“It was just a tough day, so I was really glad I didn’t make too many mistakes.

“I played Pat last year at the Close – he played really well then. I just hope I can keep doing what I’m doing and see what happens.”

Murray survived two potential early exits, overcoming a disastrous first-round 83 with a second effort of 68 to make the cut, and then coming from behind against Castlecomer’s Michael Buggy in the first round of matchplay.

The 2009 Irish Close champion was never ahead until the 17th hole, where he made a superb four to take the lead and hang on for a final-hole victory. He then let loose with five birdies against Thurles’ David Ruddy, claiming victory at the 14th.

“I just kept things simple,” he said. “It’s not about fantastic golf – it’s about the least mistakes possible and trying to keep yourself warm.

“I’m glad to be in early and get a rest,” he continued, alluding to his early draw on a day when the final matches were consigned to finishing this morning due to delays caused by several matches running into play-off holes.

Leading qualifier Andrew Hogan was defeated by Fota Island’s Thomas O’Flynn in round one, and was joined among the early casualties by Castle’s Darragh Lernihan, who lost on the 18th to Headfort’s Brian Casey.

Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar was beaten at the 17th by Co Louth’s Daniel Coyle, and Newlands’ Cian Curley bowed out in round two on the 21st against Belvoir Park’s Ross McConnell.

Pre-tournament favourite Paul Cutler survived, however, and faces local man Barry Anderson (Co Sligo) this morning.

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