Mother Nature intervenes to halt Phelan in full flow
KEVIN PHELAN was cruising to his best round as a pro when Mother Nature brought play in the first round of the Tshwane Open to an abrupt halt – after the Waterford star had completed his first 14 holes in a faultless five-under-par.
With dangerous weather in the offing, the players were called in off the Ernie Els course at Copperleaf Golf and Country Estate just outside Johannesburg.
At an enormous 7,964 yards, Copperleaf is the longest course ever to host a European Tour event; for the first time, all four par-fives measure 600 yards-plus and the fairways are soft after recent rain.
Phelan (23) birdied three of the par-fives he played, though. The recent Q-School graduate is not a big-hitter, giving measure to the quality of his all-round play as he eased within two of clubhouse leaders Simon Dyson and South Africa's Trevor Fisher Junior.
Shane Lowry was Ireland's best in the clubhouse, a four-under 68 leaving him three shy of Dyson and Fisher, decent considering his golf clubs went astray (again) in transit through Heathrow, limiting the Tshwane first-timer to just 14 holes before the tournament started.
Michael Hoey's 69 included five straight birdies through Copperleaf's 17th, his eighth, but he had no more after that. Damien McGrane shot 74 and Gareth Maybin 76, while Peter Lawrie was one-over through 14 when play halted with 40 still on the course.
Dyson finished with four successive birdies for a 65, placing him ahead in a tournament for the first time since receiving a two-month suspended ban in December – for tapping down a spike mark at October's Shanghai BMW Masters.
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LEADER REMAINS IN MCNAMARA'S SIGHTS
Headfort's Rory McNamara maintained his challenge for the Spanish Open Amateur title with another solid performance over the La Reserva course in Sotogrande.
McNamara fired a second successive level-par 72 for a 36-hole total of 144, five strokes adrift of halfway leader Victor Pastor.
But Reeve Whitson's hopes of retaining his crown have disapp-eared after two rounds of 78 and 75.
Ballymena's rising star Dermot McElroy, after a 71 yesterday, and Portmarnock's Geoff Lenehen, who also produced a 71, are still in contention with 36-hole scores of 146 and 147 respectively.
Cormac Sharvin added a 75 for a 149 aggregate. Stuart Grehan, on 153 and Lucan's Richard O'Donovan on 161 are trailing well down the field.
Meanwhile, Irish champion Paula Grant moved up the leaderboard in the women's event, also in Sotogrande, after a sparkling 72 for a 150 total six strokes behind Denmark's Nanna Koerstz. Chloe Ryan is only a stroke adrift of Grant, but Mary Doyle missed the cut after two 82s.