The Rathmore star tamed the tricky North Berwick course in a fresh easterly wind with a sizzling 68 – three under par – to be just one stroke off the pace in the first qualifying round and put himself in pole position to grab one of the top places in the knock-out draw.
He achieved his excellent score despite a scrappy outward half which he covered in 37 with eight pars and a bogey five on the 366-yard seventh.
Then the Irish international moved up several gears and produced a brilliant inward half 31- five under par – holing from 30 feet for a birdie two on the 10th,pitching to 10 feet for another birdie at the next and rolling in lengthy putts at both the 15th and 16th for birdies.
“It was poor going out but coming back I was delighted.”
Cian Curley, the recent winner of the East of Ireland championship, played at Muirfield and returned a splendid one under par 70.
Curley birdied the second, and the long ninth where he reached the edge of the green in two.
Out in 34, Curley dropped a stroke at the 10th where he failed to get up and down but he clawed back the position by birdieing the 12th after a long approach finished four feet from the stick.
Bunker trouble at the 17th cost him another stroke but he finished with a par four.
Portstewart’s Paul Cutler, a warm favourite to be included in the St Andrews Trophy team kept himself in touch with the leaders with a level par 71 at North Berwick.
Andrew Hogan and Paul Dunne have work to do to qualify after taking 75 yesterday while Conor Doran after a 77 needs something special to keep alive his Amateur hopes.
Portmarnock’s James Fox carded a one over par 72 at Muirfield after a topsy-turvy round during which he recorded four bogeys and three birdies and Dara Lernihan of Castle was also on that mark.
Right at the end of the day Robert Cannon of Laytown and Bettystown posted a one under par 70 at North Berwick and will move to Murrayfield today in good heart looking for a round that will take him into the knock-out phase.
And in the very last match to finish Moyola Park’s Paul O’Kane returned a highly useful 71 to keep himself in touch.