Saturday 17 March 2018

Sensational birdie blitz revives McGee's hopes

Ruaidhri McGee: birdie blitz. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Ruaidhri McGee: birdie blitz. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Ruaidhri McGee sensationally birdied seven of his last eight holes to keep alive his dream of a European Tour card at the dreaded Qualifying School.

The easygoing Derryman (26) was five shots outside the projected cut mark with nine holes to go on the tight and tricky Hills Course at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona.

A 6' 5" gentle giant, McGee was wobbling metaphorically as he headed down the back nine in the fourth round of the six-round marathon.

But he somehow stayed upright and stormed home in just 29 blows en route to a five-under-par 67 that helped him make the 72-hole cut for the top 70 and ties with two shots to spare on four-under par.


Dubliner Gavin Moynihan continued in his impressive vein, cruising quietly into contention for overall victory - and his card - after an immaculate three-under-par 68 on the Lakes Course moved him to tie eighth on 10-under, just five shots off the lead.

But if McGee's putter was hot, the blades of Arglass's Cormac Sharvin and Ballymena's Dermot McElroy never heated up.

Sharvin went out in three-under at the Hills to get inside the top 70 only to give those shots back on the homeward journey as he shot a level-par 72 and miss out by three shots on one-over par.

The former Walker Cup player can console himself with the fact that after a tough year, he has full Challenge Tour status next year.

And while McElroy also failed to finish in the top 70, shooting a one-over 73 at the Hills to finish seven shots outside the mark, he has improved his lot and hopes to get a dozen events or more on the second-tier tour next year.

McGee has played three full seasons on the Challenge Tour and by making the cut - something that last year's winner, Ricardo Gonzalez, former Ryder Cup player Niclas Fasth or tour winners Richard Green and Simon Dyson failed to achieve - he can still win his full card.

That looked unlikely when he stumbled to the turn in two-over par. But with nothing left to lose, he relaxed and let the birdies flow.

"I needed them," McGee said of the birdie barrage that leaves him just three strokes outside the top 25 and ties who will be awarded cards after tomorrow's sixth round.

"I don't know what happened. I just holed a whole load of putts. I needed to do something and they just started going in. When you are out of the tournament, you chill out a bit. I was five outside the cut mark and nowhere near and then it all changed."

After a par-three at the 10th, he made four birdies in a row from the 11th and another three to finish.

"Not counting one-putt from off the green, I only had 11 putts on the back nine," said McGee, who holed four birdie putts between 12 and 15 feet and tapped in for the other three, which came at the par-five 11th and 16th and the driveable par-four 12th.


Moynihan has his sights set on a top 10 finish as it would give him a far superior category of membership to the players who finish between 11th and 25th this week.

He already knows he will get a dozen European Tour starts next year and admitted yesterday that he could not be more relaxed.

"I am so relaxed out there, it's a joke," he said with a chuckle after making three birdies in an almost faultless display.

"Even when the ball got stuck up the tree the other day, it didn't bother me. Last year, I'd have lost the plot.

"The goal is top 10 and whatever happens, happens. I know 11th to 25th is a bit of an improvement on what I have but the top 10 is a better category again, so two sub-70 rounds is the target for the next two days."

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport