John-Ross Galbraith was true to his word when he talked about free-wheeling after making the cut at the Northern Ireland Open supported by The R&A by carding a third round 66 to keep within touching distance of the leaders.
The Whitehead professional has been showing good form all week at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort and was able to make inroads by keeping the mistakes to a minimum. His only dropped shot came at the difficult par-four third, otherwise it was a tidy card containing five birdies in all.
“I knew if I kept playing the way I have been I would be able to eliminate the bogeys and make enough birdies to shoot a good round,” said Galbraith who came home in three-under 33.
“My game was very solid tee to green and gave myself loads of (birdie) chances. I actually hit the hole and it bounced out with my second on the 16th. I hit a seven iron from the rough, 170-yards, finished 10 feet and holed it.”
“I made a good par on 17 after finding more rough down the right. It was a horrible lie. Played short of the green and got up and down for par.
“At 18 I hit a great drive and a two-iron onto the green (35 feet) and two-putted for birdie. Good finish. I always seem to play the last holes well here, so I knew to stay patient,” added Galbraith, who took advantage of the calmer conditions and his familiarity with the Galgorm venue.
The 26-year-old intends to keep to the same game plan for tomorrow’s final round. “I’m playing well, just keep doing what I’m doing, keep making birdies and see where we go.”
Niall Kearney made steady progress with his two-under 68 to move to one-under. The Dubliner mixed four birdies with two dropped shots at the fifth and 17th.
“I’ve been sort of steady Eddie the last few days, nothing spectacular and just grinding it out. Course is set up tough. Conditions are definitely easier today. Not as heavy a cross breeze,” was Kearney’s summary, who is more challenged by the protocols and safety measures required due to the pandemic.
“The setup is quite restrictive as a player. We’re back and forth from hotel to golf course, can’t stop in between. I’d normally be one for going off and having a coffee somewhere and having a look about me. But that’s just the circumstances. And we’re all glad to be back competing.
Kearney has a few more playing options with Portugal on the immediate horizon. “Hard to know what the rest of the year is going to bring. I’ve got a European Tour category too so I’m hoping to get some of those events. Portuguese Open is next week and I’m hopeful of getting into that. There’s another co-sanctioned event in Portugal the following week then the Irish Open back here, not sure where I stand for that just now,” added the 32-year-old.
Kearney believes Galgorm will stand up just fine when the big boys get here for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
“I think this will be a tough test for the Irish Open. We’re not off the back tees this week; push them further back for the Irish Open and this is an even tougher test. The rough makes it really difficult, fairways are tight. It’s hard to make the greens from the rough around here. You have to keep it on the fairway and the wind tends to swirl around here.
Just now, Kearney is looking to finish off a good week. “I’ll just try and push on. There’s no stress really.”
It was a tough day at the office for Conor O’Rourke who dropped over 40 places after a third round 79 left him on eight-over. The Kildare professional managed just one birdie at the short 12th on card otherwise littered with bogeys and a double-bogey six at the third.
Leading the way and taking a three stroke lead into the final day at ten-under-par is American Tyler Koivisto who carded a flawless moving day course record 62.
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