Niall Kearney returns to action at this week’s Soudal Open in Belgium keen to put a frustrating fortnight on the DP World Tour reserve list behind him and kick his season into gear.
Off the back of an excellent 2021 campaign on the main tour where he made 9 of 15 cuts and enjoyed two top-10 finishes whilst boasting a stroke average of 69.65, the Royal Dublin man has seen his opportunities limited to just three this year on the DP World Tour despite improving his status last term.
After playing all four rounds at the ISPS Handa Championship in Spain last month, Kearney found himself stranded as third reserve for the following week’s event at Catalunya and after leaving the Continent disappointed on the eve of the tournament, he sat out last week’s British Masters, biding his time for a chance to build on last season’s campaign.
“The system is a little bit frustrating,” Kearney conceded. “Last year, even though I had a great year, the system didn’t help me because it gave guys who didn’t have a great year another opportunity this year. So there are quite a few guys playing this year who had much worse years than me last year but actually have a better card than me.
“But look, it’s just the way the system worked out with Covid rules and that. It didn’t really work in my favour to be honest but I’ve been keeping sharp and waiting for my chance so very hopeful for the weeks ahead.”
Kearney has made the cut in each of his three main tour starts so far this season with a best of T34 result in Kenya to show for it. By his own admission, his game hasn’t been where it needs to be so far this year but after putting in typically meticulous work into his swing in the interim, the Dubliner has reflected on the positives after making the most of a stop-start grind so far this term.
“I haven’t played my best across the three main tour events I’ve played so far,” Kearney said.
“We’ve been trying to clean up my ball-striking and get it back to where we had it. Nothing major, just getting clued into set-up again and hitting a little draw. We were going down a line of hitting it straight and I think we just figured out that a two to three yard draw suits me better in terms of my eye and my DNA so we’re working back towards that.
“The positive side is that I’ve felt that I haven’t played well but I made the three cuts, played four rounds in each and picked up points. If that was last year, I’d say I might’ve missed the cut so I’m just waiting for my purple patch as such and see if we can get going.”
Since the moment he stepped foot on its fairways, this week’s test in Rinkven International Golf Club has fit Kearney’s eye. An old fashioned, tight but long golf course, Kearney expects a good honest test and with no hiding place to be found at the Antwerp venue, that’s just the way he likes it.
“It’s just nice to get back out here,” Kearney said. “I feel like I’m hitting the ball a bit better now and this is a proper golf course, it’s tight, there’s no real bail-outs. It’s a similar course to what Munich was last year and I played well there (T12), a similar feel to Holland too and I played well there (T12) so yeah, I like these courses.
“It’s got a bit of definition. It’s not wide open. You have to hit proper tee-shots and what’s extra around this course is that the greens are small as well so it’s quite demanding all the way through. It’s very good.”
Although Kearney remains very much focussed on the task at hand, the next few weeks remain as muddied in terms of a schedule as those that have come before, scant reward for his exploits of last season.
“Still a bit of a guessing game,” he said. “Entry list is out tomorrow [Thursday] for Holland so I’m obviously hoping to get in there because I played well there last year.
“There’s a three week swing coming up. Next week is a natural break because the U.S. PGA is on but after that we have the Dutch Open, Germany and then Sweden so ideal world I’d play all three but standing here I just don’t know. It could be one, it could be three, so it’s still a bit of a guessing game which is frustrating after playing well last year.”
Soudal Open Tee-times (Irish time)
- 07.00 – Cormac Sharvin
- 08.30 – Niall Kearney
- 12.20 – Jonathan Caldwell
- Full tee-times HERE
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