Thursday 14 December 2017

McGinley shapes up for perfect summer

William S Callahan

PAUL McGINLEY yesterday showed precisely why he's relishing a long, hot summer on Europe's fairways as he soared into a share of sixth place at the ISPS Handa Wales Open with a superb closing 65 at Celtic Manor.

McGinley illuminated an overcast, blustery, rain-doused afternoon in the Usk Valley with his golf as he compiled the low round of the day.

"To be honest, I really played well all week," said the Irish Ryder Cup legend, who tied with Ross Fisher, two behind Thongchai Jaidee (42) of Thailand, who clinched his fifth Tour win (but first on European soil) with a one-over-par 72.

"Thursday and Friday probably were as good as I've ever played in my life. I played marvellously both days and didn't score," added McGinley, smiling. "I probably could say the same about Saturday but in the final round, I actually scored better than I played."

In contrast, Fisher was furious after being given a one-shot penalty (and a €7,500 fine) for slow play during his final round. "I don't think it's justice but there you go," said the Englishman, who was in contention when told of the penalty at 15 but fell away thereafter.

It's only 10 months since the European Tour last handed out a stroke penalty but decades since someone in the final group on the final day had action taken against them for slow play.

Tour chief referee John Paramor stepped in after giving Fisher, Jaidee and Luiten in the final group a warning as early as the sixth hole that they needed to speed up. Then came Fisher's second shot to the par-five 11th.

As the second of the group to play he was allowed 40 seconds plus a few more because of the bad weather, but took 57 seconds.

"It was a clear bad time," said Paramor. "Then on the 14th green he took 55 seconds over his first putt. I told him before he teed off at 15 and don't think he was particularly happy."

The €72,680 McGinley banked yesterday brings his haul from just seven events in 2012 to €183,583, lifting McGinley to 64th place in the Race to Dubai. This places him well ahead of schedule to regain his full Tour card this season after three years hampered by chronic knee problems.

commitments

McGinley (45) has scaled back on his playing commitments this year to spare his knee, while he looks trim and fit from a new fitness programme based on five 1,000-metre swimming sessions each week.

He's also been engaged in outside business ventures, including seven course redesign projects in Eastern Europe and across Africa, plus the innovative Clubs to Hire venture.

"It's fun and has been good for my mind," he explained. "That and the fact I haven't played a whole lot this year really has worked in my favour. It's brought freshness to my golf and I've a really clear focus on the course.

"I've played well in all my tournaments this year and hope I can keep it up," added McGinley, who headed off last night for a five-day break on the Portuguese Algarve with wife Alison and their three children, Niamh, Killian and Maia.

McGinley is also looking forward to a fun-filled schedule this summer. After two weeks off, he plays the BMW International in Munich, followed by the Irish Open at Royal Portrush, which rivals Baltray as his favourite links course in Ireland.

He's twice reached the final of the North of Ireland Amateur Open there, losing only to Darren Clarke in 1990 and Garth McGimpsey in '91.

The good vibes continued on a recent reconnaissance visit to Portrush when his son Killian (11) landed the first birdie of his life at Calamity, the infamous 210-yard par three.

McGinley also hopes to qualify for July's British Open at Lytham, where he led after two rounds in 1996.

Remarkably, he and fellow Dub Peter Lawrie posted the only bogey-free rounds yesterday at Celtic Manor.

After his impressive fourth-place finish at Wentworth, Lawrie surged into a share of eighth on three-under with his closing 67, earning €50,243.

Damien McGrane collected €19,903 in 28th on two-over after a 75, while Simon Thornton's 69 lifted him into 35th on four-over, worth €15,431.

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