Sport Golf

Thursday 22 March 2018

Phelan falls short in bid to save card


Graeme McDowell is in the mix
Graeme McDowell is in the mix Newsdesk Newsdesk

Kevin Phelan’s battle to retain his full European Tour card for 2016 came to an abrupt end yesterday after missing the cut at the Hong Kong Open following a second round of six-over par 76.

The Irishman came into the event 123rd in the Race to Dubai and needed a top-six finish to maintain his playing privileges and looked to be on course after an opening 66.

However, four bogeys and a double-bogey left Phelan on two over for the tournament and two shots outside the cut mark.

At least Ian Poulter is making the most of the opportunity Rich Beem so generously engineered. Poulter picked up the invitation to the Hong Kong Open that Beem relinquished on his behalf and steered himself into contention just two off Justin Rose’s lead.

The urgency to take part was triggered by his fall from the world’s top 50, which dropped him from the WGC-HSBC Champions event next month, which in turn left him one short of the magic 13 tournaments required to retain European Tour membership.

If he keeps up the pursuit of Rose at the top of the leaderboard, he will be back in the HSBC Champions and the world top 50. Shame he didn’t pull his finger out earlier.

“I don’t play to take part. Obviously I play to win,” Poulter said after a second-round 66 left him in third on seven under par.

“I know this golf course. I’ve shot 60 around here before. I’d not played a practice round but I’ve got good memories on this golf course. I’ve had a couple of top fives in the last five years here as well. Hopefully I can have a good weekend.”

Putting a score together on the final day has been Poulter’s problem all year. Perhaps chasing his old mate around Fanling will help his focus.

Rose, who also shot a 66, believes so.

“Poulter is a past champion and he’s on the leaderboard. He’s always good when he’s got something to prove,” Rose said.

“He’s probably a dangerous guy now that he’s outside the top 50, and I know he’ll be desperate to get back in it. He always plays well when he has motivation, so he’s obviously going to be tough to beat.”

Once again Rose played beautifully, and now the putts are beginning to drop the world No 7 looks what he is, one of the finest players on the planet.

“I need to continue to try and play good golf over the weekend, make some birdies, and keep moving forward,” he said.

Graeme McDowell is very much in the mix after a second-round 69 left the 2010 US Open winner four shots off the half-way pace.

Padraig Harrington’s weekend is over early after a second round of 72 left him on the same score as Phelan, while an out-of-sorts Peter Lawrie followed up his first-round 78 with a 74.

England’s bright young thing, 21-year-old Matthew Fitzpatrick, is just three off the lead in his first tournament since his maiden victory at the British Masters at Woburn a fortnight ago.

He conjured a hat-trick of birdies on the back nine for a second 67.

Hong Kong Open,

Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.0am

Irish Independent

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