Hoey making moves at tightly-bunched Challenge Tour Grand Final

John Craven
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Hoey making moves at tightly-bunched Challenge Tour Grand Final

Michael Hoey in Mallorca, Spain. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Michael Hoey reignited his hopes of earning full playing privileges to the European Tour next season after carding a three-under par 68 to move more than twenty spots up the leaderboard at the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A.

Starting the week in 36th place on the money-list with the top-20 guaranteed a main tour card next season, the 42-year old had work to do after an opening 71, knowing a top-3 finish is likely needed to gain main tour promotion.

After playing his first 10 holes in one-under on Friday, an eagle on 11 kicked his tournament into gear at T Golf & Country Club. Hoey’s first bogey of the day arrived at the unlucky 13th but he bounced back with a birdie on 17 ahead of a closing par as the course continued to play tricky in Spain.

“Pretty happy but you’re never fully happy as a golfer,” Hoey reflected. “I had a nice eagle on 11, it was playing downwind, but it was getting pretty tough in the wind which is pretty good because I could move up a bit then shooting a good score like that.

“It’s the kind of course that you think you should score better on but it’s not that easy. The greens are hard to hole putts on but yeah, I’m moving up a bit. I just need a couple more rounds like that to try and get a tour card.”

Up 22 places to a tie for ninth at the time of writing, just four strokes off the lead, Hoey is hoping that a bit of wind and rain could play into his hands come the weekend but he’s taking nothing for granted knowing the talent on show this week in Mallorca.

“I’m not saying I’m not confident but this game is a cruel game,” said the five-time European Tour winner.

“You have to take one shot at a time – it sounds boring but it’s just a marathon as well. When you’re halfway through it’s just like making a cut at a normal tournament but then with the weather, if we get a bit of wind and rain coming in, that bad weather should suit me.

“But everybody’s good here – guys are really good. They’re not going to fall apart like the old days – they keep the foot down really good but I’m hitting the ball quite well so at least I’ve got a chance.”

Whatever happens this week, Hoey is guaranteed some status on the main tour next season but every place counts when it comes to improving his category. The man from Ballymoney is all too aware of the riches on offer on the European Tour, not least when he cashed in just weeks ago at the Alfred Dunhill Links.

Hoey revealed prior to Scotland that it’s costing him €1300 each week to play on the Challenge Tour and having almost pulled the plug on his career when Covid ravaged his playing schedule, it was a timely cash injection.

Hoey doubled down on his individual performance at the Dunhill with the lucrative team prize in Scotland. €83 grand richer and a hopeful taste of things to come should this weekend pan out as planned.

“Obviously I want a better category,” Hoey said, currently projected to jump to 28th on the standings.

“Top-30 would be better because I actually got 22 events in 2019 from top-30, finishing 25th. A lot of people don’t know these things so I will play a few events regardless but obviously you want to play in most events.

“Top-20 of course would be great but I’ve still had quite a good year. The Dunhill Links was massive for me, winning the team competition there and playing well individually, that was almost like winning twice on the Challenge Tour. I’m just enjoying it, I’ve made some money this year and looking forward to next year now.”

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