Sugrue best of Irish as Manassero hits the front in Denmark

James Sugrue (Photo by Oliver Hardt/Getty Images)

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James Sugrue carded a rock-solid one-under par 70 on a tricky opening day at the Sydbank Esbjerg Challenge where Italian Matteo Manassero top-scored with a 66 in Denmark.

For the second week running, the Challenge Tour stopped off at Esbjerg Golfklub where Mallow’s Sugrue carded four birdies amongst a bogey and a double to sit in a tie for 21st overnight, just four shots back of the lead.

Naas pro Jonathan Yates, who enjoyed a top-25 result earlier this month at the Finnish Challenge, traded two birdies and two bogeys in an even par 71, the same score as Kinsale’s John Murphy with the pair tied for 27th ahead of Wednesday’s second round.


The Island’s Paul McBride fired four birdies but also dropped five shots in a one-over 72. Michael Hoey and Robin Dawson both posted four-over 75’s with Conor O’Rourke (76) at five-over and Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell (80) completing the Irish scoring at nine-over par.

Where others made mistakes, Manassero was exemplary atop the board, carding five birdies and no dropped shots to take a one-shot lead into day two. The Italian became the youngest player in history to win a European Tour title when he won Castelló Masters Costa Azahar in 2010 with his last European Tour coming in 2013 at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club.

Although admitting it is difficult to compare his play to that of a decade ago, the Italian believes he is better equipped to handle the pressures of professional golf.

“Obviously the confidence is not as high as that (winning his four titles),” he said. “It’s really hard to compare where I am now to where I was back then, it was two different golfers.

“I know much more about myself, and I can handle myself a lot better now but if you talk about my game back then, I wasn’t missing a shot so there is differences but I’m working to find my own way and to just feel good under competition and under pressure, which is what I want really.”

The 28-year-old, who has recorded three top 20 finishes so far in the 2021 Road to Mallorca, is pleased with his performance on the first day in Denmark – with an 11-stroke swing from his first round at last week’s Made in Esbjerg Challenge.

“I’m really happy,” he added. “To be honest it was something that was a little bit unexpected with the last tournament being in easier conditions -last time I shot 11 shots more so it’s quite a difference.

“Obviously these few days of work have done me really good but I try to stay humble because this course is a really tough beast and there is a lot more golf to play.”

Eight competitors share fourth position including three-time European Challenge Tour winner Espen Kofstad, amateur Julien Sale of France, Ewen Ferguson of Scotland, Lucas Vacarisas of Spain and Harry Ellis of England.

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