Mooney back on course after taking long road to Q-School
Damian Mooney might be famous for his long driving prowess but the Belfast man didn't expect to build up for the exhausting European Tour Qualifying School finals with a 400-mile drive up the east coast of Spain.
Forced to change his travel plans due to the weather chaos that hit Irish airports last week, the Belfast man (42) had to jet to Alicante instead of Girona last Thursday.
Despite his unforeseen six-hour haul, the Irish circuit regular fired a two-under-par 68 on the Tour Course at PGA Catalunya Resort to lead the Irish challengers when the frost-delayed opening round finally concluded, 24 hours later than scheduled. Mooney shares 20th place in an event where the top 30 and ties after six rounds will earn tour cards.
But after carding four birdies and two bogeys in winds gusting up to 35mph, the Ulsterman was happy with his start despite missing a hatful of chances on the greens.
"I played scrappy enough and didn't feel that great but it's behind me now," said Mooney, who credits teaching pro Johnny Foster with his recent run of good form.
While Mooney never got to start on Saturday, the other three Irish hopefuls had been unable to finish their opening rounds on the tougher Stadium Course because of the frost delays. But in the end none of them managed to beat par on the tough 7,172-yard Catalan track.
Former Royal County Down assistant Simon Thornton was tied for the overnight lead on three-under par with six to play.
But he bogeyed the 13th and then followed a birdie at the par-five 15th with a hat-trick of closing bogeys, posting a level-par 72 that left him tied for 62nd.
"Yesterday I holed putts for pars that I shouldn't have done," Thornton said. "Today I just missed in the wrong places and didn't hole the putts."
Having broken his driver just minutes before his tee time on Saturday, Glasson's Colm Moriarty was two-over with nine to play when he resumed and did well in the end to card a two-over 74, getting up and down from 100 yards to save par at his final hole having just taken a double-bogey five at the 185-yard eighth.
Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney resumed on one-over with six to play but he struggled with his swing and bogeyed the fifth, sixth and eighth coming home to open with a disappointing four-over-par 76 that left him near the back of the field.
Most of the low scoring occurred on the par-70 Tour Course where England's Steve Lewton fired a faultless, seven-under 63 to lead by a shot from former Challenge of Ireland winner Andrew Tampion and Frenchman Jean-Francois Lucquin.
Australia's Rick Kulacz, Denmark's Thomas Norret and Sweden's Jens Dantrop carded three-under 69s to lead the scoring at the Stadium Course, where the top 70 and ties after 72 holes will play the last two rounds.