Catlin leads the way as Irish quintet make solid starts at final qualifying

Robin Dawson leads Irish challenge after opening with a two-under 70 in Spain

Patrick Catlin of the United States, seen here last weekend on the way to winning the Thailand Open, leads the way after the first round of the European Tour Final Qualifiying School at the  Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona, Spain. Photograph:   Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour/AFP via Getty Images

Patrick Catlin of the United States, seen here last weekend on the way to winning the Thailand Open, leads the way after the first round of the European Tour Final Qualifiying School at the Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona, Spain. Photograph: Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour/AFP via Getty Images

 

American Patrick Catlin, fresh off a fourth win on the Asian Tour, jumped out of the blocks quickest of all as he carried that momentum with him into the first round of the European Tour Final Qualifying School at Lumine in Spain where the five Irish players involved got off to solid starts.

While Catlin assumed the lead with a six-under-par 65 on the Lakes course as the marathon qualifying examination got under way, Waterford’s Robin Dawson – attached to Portmarnock Links – opened with a two-under-par 70 on the Hills course to head the Irish challenge.

Dawson opened with a bogey on the 10th but the 24-year-old former Walker Cup player steadied matters with a run of nine straight pars before his opening birdie on the Par-5 second, and then claimed further birdies on the third and seventh in a bogey-free back nine.

The top-25 players after the six rounds of qualifying will earn full tour cards on next season’s European Tour and, although none of the Irish quintet have yet reach that criteria, Dawson, in tied-33rd, and the other four players are within touching distance with a long road left to travel.

Ireland’s Gavin Moynihan of Ireland plays his tee shot on the first during day one of the European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona, Spain. Photograph: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
Ireland’s Gavin Moynihan of Ireland plays his tee shot on the first during day one of the European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona, Spain. Photograph: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Dubliner Niall Kearney and Ulsterman Jonathan Caldwell each shot solid one-under 71s on the Hills to lie in tied-50th alongside Gavin Moynihan – aiming to regain his tour card – who opened with a one-under-par 70 on the tricky Lakes course at the Spanish resort. Michael Hoey suffered a couple of late bogeys to sign for a level-par 71 on the Hills.

Despite his success in Asia, Catlin is seeking to graduate on to the European Tour:

“It’s only one of six rounds, there’s still a long way to go,” he said. “I know if I can take care of what I can take care of then I’ve got every chance of contending and I’ve given myself the best chance possible.”

Catlin took a one-stroke lead over a sextet of players, among them Spain’s Alejandro Canizares, who won the tour school a year ago.

Meanwhile, in the rain-affected Mayakoba Classic on the PGA Tour, play finally got under way a day late after Thursday’s washout.

Graeme McDowell, playing for the first time since withdrawing from the Zozo Championship in Japan last month, opened with a fine five-under-par 66 – featuring six birdies and a lone bogey – to trail clubhouse leader Danny Lee by four strokes.

McDowell, a former champion, covered the front nine in 32 strokes with four birdies – at the first, third, fifth and ninth – and bounced back from a bogey on the 12th, where he drove into a waste area, with back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th holes.

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