Higgins and Thornton head chasing pack at PGA Play-Offs

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Higgins and Thornton head chasing pack at PGA Play-Offs

David Higgins (Image by Irish Golfer)

It’s all to play for at PGA National Slieve Russell where David Higgins and Simon Thornton sit just one back of the lead with a host of players still in with chances going into the final round of The PGA Play-Offs.

Overnight leader Thornton struggled to replicate his opening day brilliance, adding an even par 72 to his opening 68 to remain right in touch at minus-four, just one shot back of 36-hole leader Greig Hutcheon.

It was a grind from the off for the Tulfarris pro but despite a round that included three dropped shots and three birdies, Thornton was pleased to be heading into the final day with every chance.

“It’s like going into a Sunday in contention, that’s where you want to be,” said Thornton.

“You put yourself in the right position, hopefully a few can fall by the wayside  and you can be one ahead walking off 18. That’s the plan.”

Experience has come to the fore around the Cavan venue and no player boasts more than Waterville’s David Higgins who moved alongside Thornton in second spot after carding a second straight two-under 70.

“The score was the same but I was happier with the way I hit it today – it was a big improvement,” said Higgins.

“I’m in a good position, I’m playing well, and I’m comfortable here so we’ll go for a low one tomorrow and see what we can do.”

David Higgins (Image by Irish Golfer)

The Irish pair are joined by Michael Farrier-Twist (Seddlescombe GC) at four-under par with only three strokes separating the top-8, but it’s 49-year old Torphins pro Hutcheon who is the man to beat after he birdied the final hole to post a three-under par round of 69 and take a slender one shot advantage into the final round at five-under par.

“It wasn’t always so pretty at times, there was some good golf in spells, but I also did some pretty good scrambling today,” reflected Hutcheon.

“It’s certainly a score I would take. I didn’t exactly have complete control of the ball but it was a decent round.”

With the top-3 players from each region all fighting for lucrative DP World Tour and Challenge Tour starts at this week’s £25,000 three-day event, Hutcheon’s hopes to put his experience to use in his pursuit of the title.

“I’m in a good position going into tomorrow,” said Hutcheon, who enjoyed three victories on the Challenge Tour between 1999 and 2003.

“I’ll plot my way around, won’t try anything too fancy and keep it fairly simple. The first shot I’ll think about is the five-wood I’ll be hitting down the first, just like it’s been every day this week.”

As for the rest of the chasing pack, Paul O’Hara (North Lanarkshire Leisure Ltd) sits alone in fifth at three-under, one stroke ahead of a three-way tie for sixth at two-under that includes Matthew Cort (Beedles Lake), Jamie Howarth (Davenporth GC) and Adam Keogh (Woodhall Spa) who signed for the low round on moving day, a four-under par 68.

“Pleased with how we bounced back today and hopefully more of the same tomorrow,” said Keogh. “Ultimately there’s a long way to go and I don’t think it’s a course you can defend around, you’ve got to attack.”

As well as a slice of the £25,000 prize fund on offer, players are competing for the following DP World starts this week:

BMW PGA Championship – 1 spot
British Masters – 2 spots
Irish Open – 1 spot
Cazoo Open – 3 spots
ISPS Handa World Invitational – 1 spot
Cazoo Classic – 3 spots
Scottish Hero Open – 3 spots

+
PGA of South Africa PGA Championship – 1 spot

Furthermore, the leading three eligible players from the 2022 PGA Play-Offs will automatically qualify for the 2022 Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup team.

In the event of a tie for the final place, a ‘hole-by-hole’ play-off will be held to determine team places.

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