Antcliff looking to become second Australian to win Irish Open

Bernie McGuire

Maverick Antcliff (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Bernie McGuire

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Maverick Antcliff is primed to become only the second Australian-born golfer to capture the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Antcliff, 27, will head into the final round of the 65th hosting of Ireland’s premier event in second place at seven-under par just a shot behind England’s Aaron Rai at the Galgorm Castle course in Ballymena.

The 25-year old Rai, winner of the 2018 Hong Kong Open, and Antcliff were officially tied for the lead when the second round was finally completed mid-morning Saturday after the start to Friday’s play had been delayed by 90-minutes due to Frost.

Rai went out to post a third day 67 to move to eight-under par with Antcliff adding a 68 to jump to seven-under with the ‘preferred lie’ rule in operation on the course to the north of Belfast.

Antcliff hails from Beaudesert to the south of Brisbane, the same town Jason Day began his golfing career, and while Day had played just 14 events in three years (2002-2004) and then headed straight to the States, Antcliff has taken a different path ahead of competing in his rookie main European Tour season.

He made his European Tour debut in the 2017 co-sanctioned Australian PGA Championship but missed the cut and a year later Antcliff teed-up in the co-sanctioned Fiji International finishing T38th.

Last year he played in just two European Tour counting events posting a T68th in the ISPS Handa Vic Open while he sat out the weekend rounds a week later in the ISPS Perth Sixes.

And despite the COVID-19 restrictions this year, Antcliff has tee-up in 14 events, six prior to the lockdown with a best finish of 13th in the South African Open before recording a career high of T9th in last week’s Portugal Open.

This week marks Wycliff’s 19th main Tour start and if successful, the Queenslander will join Perth’s Brett Rumford as the only Australians to win the Irish Open with ‘Rummy’ capturing the title in 2004 at Co. Louth in Baltray, where Shane Lowry would win on his Irish Open debut in 2009.

And while Antcliff has yet to win on the European Tour, he’s no stranger to victory winning three times last year on the China Tour starting with back-to-back victories in April with a six-shot success at the Bo Ao Open and then a week later at the Shenzhou Peninsula.

He won a third China title in late June at the Beijing Open with the victory sending Antcliff to a career high of World No. 220 on the rankings.

In the ensuing nine events he managed another five top-10s including a T3rd in the season-ending China Tour Championship. Antcliff proudly returned home to finish T21st in the Australian Open and then T44th at the Australian PGA.

He took-up the game at age 11-years playing alongside his grandmother, a member at a course in Beaudesert and from there the then youngster was hooked.

He soon enrolled in the Hills International Academy where his classmates were now fellow Tour players Jake McLeod, Anthony Quayle and Cory Crawford.

World No. 1 Jason Day also had attended the Academy from 2002 to 2004 before turning pro in 2007.

“It was just nice to be able to play a pretty good golf course, in terms of the length and to be exposed to that,” Antcliff said to Golf Australia’s Jimmy Emanuel.

“And then when you’re young in grade 10 and playing with guys that are 17, 18 years old you are always trying to keep up, so you learn to just play.”

Now Antcliff is on the world’s second biggest stage and lying second with a round to play in one of the more prestigious events on the European Tour.

“It was pretty solid, an early start this morning and having to restart, having to refocus,” he said.

“The birdie on the first helped calm the nerves and I just tried to work my way into the round.

“I am now in a similar situation as last week in Portugal, so I’m drawing on those experiences and trying to switch off between rounds, have a coffee and chill-out. It wasn’t too bad, but I’m sure I’ll probably feel it in the morning.

“So, now looking forward to tomorrow as it should be good fun.”

And let’s hope that if Antcliff does win the stunning Waterford Crystal trophy, it does not end up the same way as when the trophy was delivered to compatriot Rumford’s Perth address – completely shattered upon opening!

It is understood after all these years ‘Rummy’ still awaits a replacement.

Full scoring HERE

Irish day three report HERE

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