Purcell takes route 66 and the lead out West

Dubliner races home in 30 to lead by one stroke from Max Kennedy at the West of Ireland Championship in Sligo

Conor Purcell: “once I was in position off the tee I could get it on the green and give myself chances.”  Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Conor Purcell: “once I was in position off the tee I could get it on the green and give myself chances.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell showed why he is ranked 26th in the world when he fired a five-under 66 and took a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Radisson Blu-sponsored West of Ireland Championship in Co Sligo.

Winner of the Australian Amateur Championship in December, the 21-year-old Dubliner raced home in 30 to lead the first strokeplay staging of the “West” by one stroke from 17-year-old boys’ international Max Kennedy from Royal Dublin.

Defending champion Robert Brazill birdied the last three holes as he posted a three-under 68 to share third place with Castleknock’s Paul Coughlan, who holed a seven-iron for an eagle two at the tough seventh.

“It’s a good start,” said Purcell, who turned in level par following birdies at the second and fifth – with bogeys at the sixth and eighth – on a day when just nine players in the 132-strong field broke par in a one-club wind that blew from the northeast.

“I putted very well today, and I was very comfortable with my irons and didn’t hit too many bad tee shots. So once I was in position off the tee I could get it on the green and give myself chances.

“I finished off nicely and shot five-under on the back nine, which was good. I couldn’t really have asked for anything better.”

With most of the back nine playing downwind on a day of sunshine and sleet showers, Purcell took advantage when the weather abated, hitting a nine-iron to 25ft at the 11th to dip into the red before two-putting the par-five 12th from 30ft.

Eight iron

He then rolled in a 30-footer for a two at the 13th, hit an eight iron to 15ft at the downwind 16th to set up another birdie two, before slotting home a five-footer at the last.

Kennedy made seven birdies in his 67, with dropped shots at the fourth, seventh and 10th cancelled out by birdies at the first, second, third, fifth, 11th, 12th and 15th.

“I putted very well, and hit a lot of shots close,” said the Dubliner, who made par putts from 10ft and 5ft on the last two greens.

Brazill was level par with three holes to go, but after making a six-footer at the 16th, he carried his drive 312 yards over the hill at the 17th and hit a 138-yard wedge to 12ft, before knocking in an eight-footer at the last.

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