Higgins excels in testing gales

HE’S earned less than €20,000 so far this year, came into the tournament only a late invite from Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort owner Tom Kane, but keep an eye on David Higgins over the next two days.

Yesterday, as the gales blew in Adare, David was one of only eight players to end their round under par. Two-under he shot, a 70, five shots better than his 75 on Thursday, giving him a total of 145, one over par.

Doesn’t look very impressive, perhaps, but this was the new Adare playing at its snarling worst, the Adare the pros spoke of so fearfully, and most suffered accordingly. Not David. Then again, for a guy brought up on the Waterville links, one of the finest in the world, this was bread and butter.

“We grew up playing in these conditions. A lot of these guys don’t like it — I don’t like it myself, but I know this is my best chance of doing well, these conditions. You just hang in there, grind it out. We grew up with it, I feel comfortable in the wind and the rain. So far, it’s going nicely.” Very nicely.

By the way, before we go any further, should we refer to him as Cork man David Higgins, or Kerry man David Higgins? Given that his father is from rebel territory, hurled with Erin’s Own, where does that leave David?

“Well I was born in Cork, moved to Kerry when I was one, so I’ve been in Waterville for 33 years. I suppose I’m a Kerry man at this stage, but I’ve a Cork passport!” A diplomat, as well as a golfer.

Unlike his father, long-hitting Liam (former Tour professional, now on the senior pro tour), David is more steady than spectacular. His average driving distance yesterday was a mere 247 yards, well short of the grizzlies such as Louis Oosthuizen with his 293 yards; in accuracy, however, so crucial on this course with its penal rough, David lies in 11th place. That’s why he is still in the hunt this weekend.

Mind you, coming to the par 5 18th, it looked dicey for a while. A rare errant drive, wide right into deep rough, no-one marking; found, but it meant hacking out, practically a dropped shot, or as Paul McGinley defined it yesterday, a dropped half-shot. Long iron to the green, landed in the front bunker, but from there he splashed out, made the five-footer back for par.

“It was very tough out there, so I’m very pleased. This is a great opportunity for me, and I’m glad I’m making the most of it.”

His hopes for the weekend? Currently Pádraig Harrington is top of the leaderboard; given that David twice beat Pádraig in the South of Ireland, could he do so again here? “Ah, I don’t even think about that stuff, there’s going to be 65 other lads in there as well.

“Pádraig is playing well, he’s won around here before so he’ll be very difficult to beat. I’ll be getting on with my own game, just getting on with what I do best. Just try to continue playing as well as you can, stay patient.”

Still, it’s good to see another Irishman around for the weekend, and a local at that. “Yeah, it’s great, and the more the merrier. The cut is obviously the first hurdle, I’m over that and now you set new goals, go again.”

Another to make the cut, even more local, also even more surprisingly, is Pat Murray, the only amateur in the field. In doing so, the popular Irish international did make a wad of money; for those — including several friends in his native Tipperary — who backed him at odds of 8-1.

“They’ll have to buy me a pint at least!” he laughed.

“I’m just going to enjoy it now; I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve, everything from here is a bonus. But I played well today, I made six birdies, nobody else will do that.”

For Pat, and like David, conditions gave him his chance.

“At this stage I’ve played Rosses Point, went to the Spanish Amateur and it blew a gale, in 30 degrees; went up the west, the same, Royal Dublin last week — perfect grounding for a weekend like this.”

With conditions forecast to continue more or less as is, who’s to say that they won’t deliver on another bet or two before this event is over?

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