Bar one poor swing that led to a double-bogey, Gary Hurley was thrilled with his opening round performance at the ISPS HANDA World Invitational at Galgorm Castle as he took advantage of a late invite to the tournament with a solid display in the sunshine.
The 29-year-old carded three birdies and a bogey to sit two-under-par after 16 holes of his round, but he dragged his tee shot left off the eighth and caught a branch – and never found the ball again – which led to a late double-bogey.
But a fine up-and-down on the very testing par-four ninth saw him finish with a par to end his opening round with a solid level-par 70 to end the early morning wave as the best placed Irishman, just outside the top-20.
Hurley has been a man in form recently, finishing in the top-15 in five of his last seven starts, including winning on the Alps Tour at the Alps de Andalucia and coming fifth at the Irish Challenge at The K Club.
And the Saadiyat Beach-based Irishman believes that, despite this being his sixth consecutive tournament in a row – and 11th in his last 14 weeks – it’s the mental side of his game that has him on such a strong run.
“I played brilliant today, so many high quality shots, just one bad shot on 8 and lost my ball. But I reset really well, the work I’ve been doing all year helped me do that and I finished with a par on 9,” he explained.
“I was in a good place, had good preparation leading up to it. There seems to be a good correlation between if I’m in a good place before I play, if I’ve prepared well for what could happen and if I’m ready to deal with that, then my golf comes with it. I’m just giving it a platform to come out.
“Hit it pretty good off the tee, bar that one shot on 8, into the green pretty good and putted pretty good too. The course is in amazing condition, I must say.
“I’m just happy to be here after getting a last minute invite and test the work I’ve been doing on a bigger stage, and that’s helped make sure that the occasion doesn’t have a bigger impact.”
Hurley – who, at the time of writing, is five shots off early leaders Santiago Tarrio and Thomas Aiken – will switch his attentions to Massereene for Friday’s second round and will hope he gets a good night’s sleep to help alleviate some of the nerve pain he’s having in his shoulder.
“It’s not affecting my game,” he clarifies, conceding the issue is likely due to his hectic schedule.
The former Walker Cup star is not putting any targets on his second round, despite low scores coming in from the second course on day one. Rather, having spent the majority of his season on the Alps Tour, he’s just happy to get to test himself at a different level this week.
“It’ll be a bit firmer,” he says of Massereene. “I’m just testing my work at the moment and I’m happy where my game is.”