Damien McGrane isn’t getting drawn into thoughts of winning a third Irish PGA Championship title despite being the clubhouse leader on five-under-par after a very impressive round of 69 in extremely tough conditions at the 112th Irish PGA Championship.
There was no case of ‘first is worst’ for McGrane who was in the opening group on Friday morning. Teeing off in the midst of a torrential rain shower the Kells native reeled off three straight pars before making his first step in the right direction with a birdie at the par-5 4th.
The former European Tour winner dropped his only shot of the day on the tenth but three birdies in a four hole stretch from the 13th saw him climb to the summit and into a great position to lift a third Irish PGA gong on Saturday.
After an opening 70 the limit for the Carlow GC professional was a top-5 finish and he is still sticking to his word in that regard!
“Still top five oh yeah! Tomorrow is going to be a long day, another breezy day and whoever plays the best golf will win, so we will have to wait and see who the lucky man is.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings and I’m looking forward to going home,” he grinned cheekily.
The 51-year-old hasn’t got too much competitive action under his belt this term but did warm up with events in Newlands and Kilkea Castle and a return to his national championship has seen him move through the gears.
While plenty saw their chances blow away in the gale force winds, McGrane used all of his steely experience to move his nose in front.
“I did play well today. I was steady from start to finish. I find the course so difficult that you really have to stay in the moment and play one shot at a time and that’s what I have been doing. My short game has been adequate but the course is really tough and you can’t lose your concentration for a moment or it could all go horribly wrong so I’m in a good position, very happy with the way I played and it’s a nice place to be.
“It’s a matter of playing all the shots in the bag, using all the clubs, making clever club selections. Sometimes missing the green on the right side is a good bet so I have been trying to give myself opportunities.
“There aren’t too many opportunities for birdies out there but I’m trying to peel off the pars and see if a couple of birdies come my way. Keeping the disasters off the card is paramount.
“At the end of the day you still have to play the golf, you can’t play poorly and expect experience to carry your way through that one. I’ve played well around here in the past and I’m starting to enjoy the new course here this is the first time I’ve played it this week,” added the 2016 and 2019 champion.
At the time of writing McGrane leads Michael McGeady by two shots.