Tuesday 22 May 2018

McGinley hits stride in Andalucia

William S Callahan

PAUL McGINLEY colourfully compares his new beginning in golf to that of a jockey. He must keep a tight rein if his playing career is to go the distance.

After a sixth operation on his left knee last November, the diminutive Dubliner, now 43, must resist the temptation to beat balls and choose his tournaments carefully.

The keyword is 'quality', and McGinley showed that in abundance in Malaga yesterday as a sweet second round 66 sent him soaring up the leaderboard at The Open de Andalucia, only his second outing since undergoing surgery.

This effort lifted McGinley into a share of ninth on six-under, four off the pace set by sturdy South African Louis Oosthuizen (27) and England's hugely-impressive Tour rookie Sam Hutsby (21) after both equalled the course record 63 set earlier by James Morrison.

McGinley actually played with Oosthuizen over the first 36 holes of the King Hassan Trophy in Morocco last week when his ball-striking looked as impressive as that of his playing partner.

Yet he couldn't buy a putt in Rabat and missed the cut, while Oosthuizen surged on into second place behind Rhys Davies. McGinley stayed on at the weekend to work on his putting and his labours have bore fruit.

"I'm really pleased," he said. "Just to have made the cut is a good thing but to be up on the leaderboard is wonderful."

Asked if he was surprised to find himself in contention so soon, McGinley went on: "The surprise was how well I played straight off the bat last week. Yet my putting was very poor in Morocco, so I worked hard on it over the weekend and I've putted nicely this week."

Though he landed an eagle at the par five 14th hole, his fifth, McGinley's putter was seen to best effect on the front nine yesterday, as he sank a real raker to save par at seven, before holing an assured 15-footer for birdie at eight. Ireland's Ryder Cup hero then chipped beautifully to inches after missing the green at the vicious par three ninth.

"I'll never again be able to practice with the intensity I used to. I've got to rejig my whole approach if I'm to have longevity in the game. When I do practice, I've got to make sure that it counts. It's simple. If I take care of my knee, it will take care of me."

McGinley must visits the gym up to three times a day as he builds muscle around the joint. Still only halfway through rehab, he's noticed a marked increase in his core strength, which clearly has contributed to the extra distance he's found off the tee.

Of course, that may also be down to the new driver and golf ball both he and Hutsby are using to great effect this week. Another link they share is Darren Reynolds, the Irish caddie who was at McGinley's side at the 2004 and 2006 Ryder Cups and, after a spell with Graeme Storm, linked up with the Portsmouth youngster last week.

Gareth Maybin, who shot three-under 67 yesterday, Darren Clarke (68) and Michael Hoey (69) all went into the weekend tied 39th on two-under, while Shane Lowry (67) and Simon Thornton (70) made it through on one-under, as did Gary Murphy (71) and Peter Lawrie (72) on the cut mark of level par. Damien McGrane (68) missed out by one.

Open De Andalucia, Day 3

Live, Sky Sports 2, 1.0

Irish Independent

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