Higgins cruising as rest of Irish hopefuls struggle
David Higgins might be cruising toward his tour card but the rest of the Irish hopefuls face a massive test just to make the 72-hole cut at the final stage of the European Tour Qualifying School at PGA Catalunya Resort north of Barcelona.
While the 39-year-old Waterville veteran was disappointed to finish poorly, he still shot a two-under 68 on the easier Tour Course to share 11th place on seven-under par in the race to finish in the top 25 and ties after six rounds.
Only the top 70 and ties after today’s fourth round will contest the last two rounds of the 108-hole marathon over the tough Stadium Course and the other five Irish hopefuls are all outside the pale.
Ballymena’s Chris Devlin is just a stroke outside the top 70 on three-over par after getting overly aggressive on the greens and three-putting four times in a one-over 71 yesterday.
“It’s been one good round that has got me through the first two stages so there’s no reason why I can’t do it again,” Devlin said of his date with the Stadium circuit. “I just have to be more patient.”
Royal County Down’s Simon Thornton is two shots outside the mark on four over after undoing all his good work with a closing double bogey in a level-par 72 on the Stadium Course.
“I just hit a bad shot on the wrong hole,” he said after losing a ball off the tee on the ninth. “The game is starting to show signs of coming back and if I had parred or birdied the last I’d have been fine but I still have a chance.
“I need four, five or six under tomorrow on the Tour Course to get back into it and after that, anything can happen.”
Thornton showed some improvement with the putter yesterday as he birdied his 14th, 15th and 17th to get to two under for the round before that late blip.
But Dubliner Niall Kearney needs the blade to warm up considerably after putting poorly for a 74 that leaves him three shots outside the cut mark on five over. “Terrible,” Kearney said of his form on the greens.
“I need three or four under tomorrow. I’m playing well enough, just not getting the ball in the hole.”
Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe could need a 63 on the Tour Course to stay alive after a 77 on the Stadium Course severely dented his hopes of winning a full Challenge Tour card.
While Lurgan’s Gareth Shaw is 148th on 14 over after a 74, Higgins can still catch leader Estanislao Goya of Argentina, who shot a six-under 64 on the Tour Course to top the leaderboard by two shots on 13 under. “I was unlucky to bogey my 16th and I missed two good chances coming in so I’m slightly disappointed,” Higgins said.
Irish Scores: 205: D Higgins 73 64 68; 215: C Devlin (Nir) 71 73 71; 218: S Thornton 71 75 72; 219: N Kearney 73 72 74; 223: P O’Keeffe 81 65 77; 228: G Shaw (Nir) 81 73 74