Playing with pals helped Gavin Moynihan rediscover his mojo and put himself in position to battle for his European Tour survival in Portugal this week. The Portrane native admits he was at a low ebb just a month ago, missing cuts by narrow margins or failing to perform on payday.
But after feeding off his love of golf’s tougher tests to finish a career-best tied fifth in the Open de France in Paris on Sunday, the 25-year-old Dubliner is upbeat about what lies ahead. Having risen to 140th in the Race to Dubai, he knows he must finish solo fourth or better in this week’s Portugal Masters to avoid a return to the Qualifying School.
It’s a tall order but the former Walker Cup player is in such a good place mentally he does not rule out another career week in Vilamoura.
“I just needed to get back to enjoying the game again so I had a few games with the lads in The Island and had a few nice rounds with them and the last three or four weeks and my game has gotten steadily better,” he said.
“Those social games at home really helped me to just enjoy the game. It’s great out here, but you do miss those money games at home. We have a good group of guys off two or three handicaps in the Island who know how to play, and I enjoy that. It really helped me the last few weeks to get back enjoying it a bit more.
“I’ve never had as many messages from them as I had on Friday after I slammed dunked it on the 16th and it came out of the hole and I missed out on that car!” He might not be driving a €170,000 BMW i8 but he finally found the perfect driver set-up six weeks ago and believes that if he can drive it well on his debut in Portugal, he will have a chance to achieve his goal.
“I probably need top four outright, so I just have to make it through the cut and have a low weekend,” he said.
“I’d prefer a tougher course — I could see straight away last week that if you stayed out of the rough, you could move right up the leaderboard with a birdie or two, that’s what I did. But I played the course here back in April and if you drive it well you have a lot of wedges and nine and eight irons, and they were good last week. So I am going to give it a go.”
After the freezing winds of Paris, Moynihan arrived in Faro yesterday to 23C weather knowing his performance in Paris moved him far enough up the Race to Dubai to avoid a trip to next week’s second stage of the Qualifying School in Spain.
Those first and second stages are the toughest places to go because everyone thinks you should qualify, but they are the hardest ones to get through. Being through to the final stage frees me up for this week, and I can just go for it.
That mental freedom stood to Moynihan in Paris, where he was so relaxed on the weekend he was able to quiz his Saturday playing partner Martin Kaymer about his 2012 Ryder Cup winning putt to seal the Miracle of Medinah.
“Kaymer was dead on,” Moynihan said. “It’s just about being a bit more chilled out on the course I sometimes get a bit too uptight, especially on Sundays. So before the round yesterday, I just said to myself, ‘you can shoot 84 here today, or you can shoot 68’, just try and treat it the same mentally the whole way around. And I played much better. It was stress free.”
It won’t be as stress-free this week for many, including Moynihan’s former Walker Cup team mate Paul Dunne, who likely needs to finish in the top 60 to keep his card.
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Since he tied for fourth in the Made in Denmark five months ago, the Greystones talent has missed 11 of the last 13 cuts and fallen from 62nd to 118th in the Race to Dubai, just one spot outside the top 117 who keep their cards.
“The last six weeks he’s missed a few cuts and the lads he didn’t need to play well, suddenly played well,” Moynihan said. “It’s amazing the way you drop down a few spots each week. The margins are very fine. But I think he’ll do okay this week because he’s played here three times before and knows it really well.”