Simon Thornton leads Irish challenge at Qualifying School in Spain

Simon Thornton is best of the Irish after the opening two rounds of the Qualifying School Final Stage at PGA Catalunya Resort in north-east Spain.

Simon Thornton leads Irish challenge at Qualifying School in Spain

He carded a blemish-free round of three under on the easier Tour course for four under overall, and a tie for 29th.

He’s still outside the top 25 and ties who will secure playing rights for the European Tour in 2016 but he gave himself every chance of making that by turning on level par before shooting three birdies on the closing nine.

In contrast, the dream is over for Donegal’s Ruaidhri McGee, who had a disastrous day on the tougher Stadium course yesterday.

The 24-year-old started the day tied for ninth on six under but he haemorrhaged a staggering 15 shots yesterday – five of those on 13 – to see him drop 150 places to tied 154th overall on nine over.

He was three over at the turn but the wheels well and truly came off on 13 and he followed that with a par, consecutive double bogeys and consecutive bogeys for 87.

Rising star Paul Dunne was far more composed during his round of two under on the Tour course which left him tied 36th on three under.

But the Greystones man rued a number of missed putting opportunities that could have seen him far higher up the leaderboard. Little wonder he was easy to grab for a word during the two hours he spent on the practice green afterwards: “I played really well and gave myself loads of chances from 10/12 feet but just went on a run of missing putts so that undid my good work,” he said.

“I hit it well, I only missed two fairways and three greens and gave myself six or seven chances from 10 or 12 feet but missed every time.

“Two under is not exactly playing my way out of it but it was a round I could have capitalised a bit more on,” he added.

Damien McGrane, twice as old as Dunne, still showed he’s up for battle and carded the same score, though he too had hoped for better: “I played nicely on Saturday and I played very average yesterday but I holed a few putts which I didn’t do the day before,” he said.

“The Tour course was a little bit easier but you still have to hole the putts.”

He admitted his motivation was low at this stage of his career at this stage of the year, but he’s keen to plough on: “I obviously need to play well the next four rounds and climb the leaderboard.

“I’ve low motivation but I’m dealing with that as I go on, just taking each day at a time. It just makes it more difficult to play because it’s harder to be interested and really involved in what you’re doing.”

Kevin Phelan is well poised on level par after successive rounds of same.

“I played well today and hit the ball quite well. On Saturday I scrambled for level par and yesterday I had loads of chances so if I match it up, I’ll be flying.

“My game is pretty good; I had lots of chances from 15/20 feet but didn’t manage to hole many – but I gave myself plenty chances and kept myself in contention.”

Elsewhere, it’s going to take something special from 2008 Spanish Open winner Peter Lawrie to claw his way out of tied 116th after rounds of 76 and 69. His one under yesterday partially undid the damage of Saturday’s four-over but facing into the Stadium course today, he has it all to do.

Headfort’s Brian Casey also laboured his way to replicating Lawrie’s score of one-under yesterday to stand plus three overall.

Irish scores:

S Thornton 71, 67 (-4); P Dunne 71, 68 (-3); D McGrane 71, 68 (-3); K Phelan 70, 72, (par); P Lawrie 76, 69 (+3); B Casey 76, 69 (+3) ; R McGee 64, 87 (+12)

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