Thornton shoots stunning 60 to take commanding lead at Clandeboye

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Thornton shoots stunning 60 to take commanding lead at Clandeboye

Simon Thornton (Photo by Patrick Bolger/Getty Images)

Tulfarris professional Simon Thornton put the field to the sword on the opening day of the NI Masters hosted by Jonathan Caldwell, firing a stunning 11-under par round of 60 to lead by five strokes at Clandeboye GC.

Thornton, a mainstay of the Irish regional circuit, proved he’s well able to mix it on the EuroPro’s satellite Tour on invite, racing to the turn in 29 with five birdies on the card before finishing in style with an eagle and three birdies from the 15th.

All-up, it left Thornton at 11-under par, five clear of England’s Jack South, leaving him just one shot shy of the £59,000 the Tour puts up for a magical 59.

Thornton: “I suppose I got off to a good start. I hit a good tee shot on the first and I had 70 yards into the flag. And then on you just roll with it. I was striking it lovely. I was six under after seven and you get to a stage where it’s new territory for everybody at any level. So I was still playing it lovely tee to green. I wouldn’t say the putter went cold but I had a couple of lip-outs. I then holed one right across the green at 15 from 45 feet. I then started as I finished and rolled them in.”

“I wasn’t quite sure if I was six under after seven or five under after six. I got a bit muddled. That was quite good as I tried to just freewheel. I kept saying to myself to pick my target and go through my pre-shot routine and just let it happen.”

“It’s only an hour from home. Ross is a member here my caddy and we’ve played here a little bit over the last year or so. It’s a good golf course, you have to hit every club in the bag. It’s a pleasure to play here.”

Old Conna’s Neil O’Brien was the next best Irishman in the clubhouse after signing for a super four-under 67.

Tournament host Caldwell was at two-under par and inside the top-20, the same score as Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan, Limerick’s Tim Rice and Jones Engineering pro Dylan Brophy, while looking to build on last week’s win and consolidate his position inside the top-5 on the Order of Merit, Dermot McElroy was just outside the top-30, in the clubhouse at one-under par.

Scoring overall though was tough despite the course record set by Thornton. Callum Farr and Joe Brooks signed for opening rounds of 66 (-5) to be tied for third after one round. Brooks’ back nine was something to behold with two bogies, five birdies, and an eagle whilst Farr was in for 31 after taking the front nine in level par.

The second round will take place before the cut is made to the leading 50 players plus ties before one final round in front of a sell-out crowd on Friday. There is limited availability for free tickets for tomorrow, get your free ticket here.

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