Tuesday 20 March 2018

Paul McGinley rises above Ryder Cup exertions to stay in hunt

Paul McGinley hits his second shot to the 14th hole during the first round of the Open de Espana in Girona. Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Paul McGinley hits his second shot to the 14th hole during the first round of the Open de Espana in Girona. Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

William S Callahan

RYDER CUP captain Paul McGinley paused long enough in his helter-skelter schedule to equal the best score by an Irish player in the first round of the Open de Espana.

After stepping out of the Sky TV broadcast booth on Sunday evening at Sawgrass, the Dubliner went for dinner with new Players champion Martin Kaymer and his caddie Craig Connolly in a local bar-restaurant that evening.

McGinley flew home to Sunningdale on Monday, travelled on Tuesday to Girona, where he fulfilled a couple of media commitments and put in some practice at this week's tournament venue, PGA de Catalunya.

Then the Irishman teamed up with jilted United boss David Moyes in Wednesday's Pro-Am, so by the time he shook hands with playing companions Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Tommy Fleetwood on the first tee yesterday, McGinley might have been tempted to heave a sigh of relief.

Except, the host venue for this year's Spanish Open is one of the most demanding on Tour ... indeed, the Catalunya government have officially launched their campaign to bring the Ryder Cup here in 2022.

Yet McGinley was equal to this tough strategic challenge and exacted fair reward for a tidy day's work when holing from 20 feet for one of only 11 birdie threes at the treacherous final hole for a 72.

This left the 47-year-old tied 31st with fellow Irishmen Shane Lowry and Simon Thornton on even-par, four shy of 23-year-old Englishman Eddie Pepperwell's lead.

A frustrating double-bogey six at the ninth hole, his last, prevented Thornton from finishing in red figures.


Lowry opened brightly with birdies at one and two. Though an ugly triple-bogey seven at the 10th took the wind out his sails, the Clara man got back on an even keel with a neat birdie four at 15.

Gareth Maybin and David Higgins were next best of the Irish with 73s, while Michael Hoey (74), Damien McGrane (75) and Kevin Phelan (76) have ground to make up today to get through the cut.

Cabrera-Bello, pre-tournament favourite Sergio Garcia and that daddy of them all, Miguel Angel Jimenez, had the home fans cheering as they forced their way into the eight-strong chasing pack on three-under with impressive 69s.

Jimenez, who followed his fourth place at the Masters by winning his first Champions Tour title seven days later in Gwinnitt, Georgia, yet again defied his 50 years by posting one of only two bogey-free rounds yesterday.

Next week's BMW PGA Championship shipped a blow when Ryder Cup hero and 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell confirmed he'll not play the European showpiece for the first time in 12 years as a pro.

The Portrush star, who hasn't made the cut in three years at Wentworth, intends instead to take advantage of some precious time at home with wife Kristin, who's expecting their first child in September.

Despite last Sunday's exhilarating yet exhausting efforts, Kaymer honoured his commitment to play the Byron Nelson Championship in Dallas.

The German and Padraig Harrington were among those who set off late in pursuit of Marc Leishman's early clubhouse lead on four-under after a sweet 66 by the Aussie.

Dubliner Niall Kearney opened with an even-par 72 at the Turkish Challenge to lie four off the pace set by Guillaume Cambis of France. Ruaidhri McGee's action-packed 73 at The National in Antalya included five birdies, two bogeys and a couple of double-bogeys.


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Irish Independent

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