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Strong finish keeps Lawrie in contention

Peter Lawrie overcame a dreadful start in spectacular style to shoot his second-lowest score in nearly two years on day two of the Castello Masters in Spain.

In a pinball-style opening, Lawrie hit trees with his tee shots on the first and second holes -- but still managed to salvage pars -- and then saw his par putt at the third horse-shoe out.

But he bounced back in a tremendous manner, before finishing with a real flourish by eagling his 17th hole and then birdieing the last for a seven-under-par 64.

Lawrie, who was out in the first match from the 10th, is on six-under-par overall and is just three strokes behind Sweden's Peter Hedblom, who also shot a 64 to lead by one.

Three players -- Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (66), Scotland's Paul Lawrie (70) and exciting Italian teenager Matteo Manassero (66) -- who has Coleraine man Ryan McGuigan on the bag -- are next best at eight-under-par.

Tournament host Sergio Garcia (73) was bitterly disappointed to miss the cut in his first event in just over two months.


Lawrie's score is his lowest since a Tour career-best of 63 in last month's Omega European Masters, as well as being the ninth 64 in his career.

The Dubliner began the round trailing eight shots behind playing partner Ricardo Gonzalez, who shared the lead at seven-under and it was his desire to rein in the Argentinian that helped inspire him.

"I just kept saying to myself that I am playing with the leader and I thought to myself, if I can get close to Ricardo I am doing okay," said Lawrie.

"I was trying to chase him down and at least I knew who the leader was, rather than having to look at leaderboards to see who it was."

Lawrie kick-started his round with three straight birdies from the second hole, which he was playing as his 11th. He firstly holed a 60-foot uphill birdie putt, then managed an eight-footer for birdie at the third and a 25-footer for another at the fourth.

But the shot of his round was at the par-five eighth that Lawrie was playing as his 17th, where he drilled a 260-yard three-wood to just six inches.

A birdie at the last, when Lawrie landed a six-iron to 15-feet, got him within a shot of Gonzalez, who had a 71 to be in a share of fifth place at seven-under-par.

Fellow Irishman Damien McGrane atoned for a dismal five-over-par first round by firing six birdies in a bogey-free round of 65 to easily make the cut on one-under.

Currently 55th in the Race to Dubai, Meath-based McGrane is delighted that he added the Spanish event to his schedule.

"I've never played here before as I would normally take this week off, so I am here for a reason," he said. "I want to be in Dubai and just want to get a couple of good weeks under my belt."


Shane Lowry also kept alive hopes of improving on his 62nd position on the list with a 70 for a three-under par tally.

Paul McGinley birdied his closing two holes in a round of 66 for a two-under-par total.

And Ballyclare's Gareth Maybin fought back from dropping five shots in as many holes at the end of his outward half to birdie his 16th and 17th in a score of 73 for a one-under par tally.

The only Irish player to miss the cut was Down's Simon Thornton, who had one birdie and 17 pars in a score of 70 for a three-over par total.

Thornton's next event will now be next month's Q-School, where he will strive to win back his Tour card.

Castello Masters,

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Irish Independent