Niall Kearney eased himself into this week’s inaugural Golf in Dubai Championship presented by DP World with a one-under 71 but finds himself trailing Andy Sullivan by 10 strokes after the Englishman signed for a sparkling opening 61
Royal Dublin professional Kearney picked up where he left off last month on the Challenge Tour with three birdies and two bogeys accounting for his one-under par effort, currently sitting him just outside the top-40 with much of the field yet to complete their second rounds.
It will take a course record to best Sullivan, however, who was on 59 watch before signing for a new course record after taking full advantage of early conditions in the United Arab Emirates to deliver a birdie frenzy and celebrate Fire Course’s debut on the European Tour in sensational style.
Frenchman Antoine Rozner – who teed off in the second group of the day – was the closest challenger at five under following gains at the first, fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth but Sullivan’s birdie trail did not stop there. He rolled another at the first and when he carded his sixth in a row at the second, he was at eight under.
Rozner temporarily joined him at the top after birdieing the 12th and an eagle at the par five 13th, but four time European Tour winner Sullivan nudged ahead with a serious possibility of a 59 on the horizon. Back to back birdies at the fourth and fifth saw him reach ten under, with Rozner still on his coattails when he carded his ninth gain of the round at the 16th to finish at nine under.
Sullivan needed to finish his final three holes in three under to become only the second person to record a 59 in European Tour history – after Oli Fisher at the 2018 Portugal Masters. His chances were boosted as he carded his 11th birdie of the day at the par five seventh, but could only roll in a par at the eighth.
Sullivan still had the chance to make history at the par four ninth if he got up and down in two and he pushed his tee shot into the rough. He produced a fine approach, which checked back and headed towards cup before settling seven feet away, however, Sullivan could not drain the birdie putt as he carded a stunning 61.
Fellow Englishman Matt Wallace moved into early contention to join Rozner at nine-under following eight birdies and an eagle in his 63. Unfortunately the news wasn’t so good for Gavin Moynihan whose miserable run of form continued with a five-over par round of 77 that leaves him near the foot of the board.
Full scoring HERE