Thornton takes top prize in Irish Open qualifier

Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort) edged out Neil O’Briain (Old Conna GC) on the first play-off hole to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open qualifier at Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort.

Thornton takes top prize in Irish Open qualifier

Paul Kelly

Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort) edged out Neil O’Briain (Old Conna GC) on the first play-off hole to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open qualifier at Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort.

In doing so the 41-year-old claimed the €6,000 first prize and earned a place in this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin where he will be joined by O’Briain, third-placed Colm Moriarty (Glasson Hotel) and Cian McNamara (Monkstown GC).

Thornton and O’Briain finished the 36-hole event locked together on five under par, while Moriarty ended the tournament on four under.

The four qualifiers for the Irish Open Cian McNamara, Colm Moriarty, Neil O’Briain and Simon Thornton with PGA in Ireland regional manager, Michael McCumiskey; John Casey, director, Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort and Rosapenna 2018 captain, Liam Breen.
The four qualifiers for the Irish Open Cian McNamara, Colm Moriarty, Neil O’Briain and Simon Thornton with PGA in Ireland regional manager, Michael McCumiskey; John Casey, director, Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort and Rosapenna 2018 captain, Liam Breen.

The scorching weather that had marked out the practice day and the opening round on Saturday was replaced on Sunday by cloudy skies and a stronger breeze that tested the players.

“It was a battle but I’m used to from practising at Newcastle,” said Thornton.

“Overall, I played two good rounds. I played lovely, only one sloppy shot which cost me a bogey on the last but I committed to everything. I’m delighted obviously.”

Fourth place at Ballyliffin went to Cian McNamara who hung on to beat Europro Tour regular, Kevin Phelan on the second play-off hole after both finished on two under par.

Meanwhile, there was heartbreak in the end for Ireland’s Robin Dawson as he came so close to victory at the European Amateur Championship but was pipped to the title by one stroke at Royal Hague, Netherlands.

Tramore star Dawson, who was beaten in the Amateur Championship final last month, was six strokes behind leader Nicolai Hojgaard heading into the final round but he produced a dazzling round to almost claim an unlikely win.

He got off to the perfect start with a birdie on the first hole, although that was cancelled out with a bogey on four.

An eagle on the fifth gave him hope before he then bogeyed the eighth. However, birdies either side of the turn gave him momentum and he shot another two on 13 and 14. Unfortunately, he also carded a bogey on 11 and that saw him finish the tournament tied for second on 282, one shot behind winner Hojgaard, who hit a one-over 73 to finish on 281.

Alex Noren will turn his attention to the Open Championship after staging a remarkable fightback to claim the HNA Open de France title.

Going into yesterday’s final round, the Swede was seven shots off the lead, but birdies at the 16th and 17th helped him card a 67 to set a target of seven-under-par which proved beyond the field at Le Golf National in Paris.

That completed a 10-under-par weekend for Noren, who saw American Julian Suri’s challenge dissolve when he found water with his second at the 18th and emerged with a double-bogey six.

“On a course like this, anything can happen and I was just trying to get to six, seven, eight under. I thought that could get you into a play-off.

“The feeling of the birdie on 17, I really wanted that. You always want that and finally, I made one of those when it really matters. “It’s unbelievable. I never thought I was going to win. It’s a tricky golf course. The first two days were really tough for me and I played a lot better on the weekend.

“It’s not the way you want to see your opponent come in, but we all fight out there and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. I feel very happy right now.”

Noren’s second Rolex Series title could hardly be better timed with the British Open less than three weeks away.

He said: “The Open has been the best major for me result-wise. I’m going to have a week and a half of good practice and see what I can do.”

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