Gary Hurley turned a frustrating day into a good one with a sensational finish to move into the top-25 at the Investec South African Open Championship in Johannesburg.
Hurley eagled the 18th for the second successive day after he recovered from a double bogey six on 15 with back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17.
The West Waterford native started in disastrous fashion, pulling his opening tee shot out of bounds leading to a double-bogey seven before posting birdies on the third and tenth with a bogey on 9. After another double on 15 threatened to derail his comeback he picked up four shots in his final three holes to sign for a rollercoaster 71 to rise to six-under-par.
“I hit it out of bounds on the first, left, not a great start, but that’s golf, sometimes it doesn’t start well sometimes it doesn’t finish well. Today I finished really strong I can’t be anything but pleased. Up and down day but yeah it was nice.
“I haven’t been hitting my irons great. Hit a few nice ones but there have been a few funny ones. Other than that I played quite nicely other than midway through the back nine and then towards the end I obviously played really well.
“I missed a lot of putts today, a lot of good putts that shaved the edge or lipped out. It was a good day and I’m happy with what I have shot so far.’
Hurley last visited South Africa in 2012 as an amateur as part of the usual Golf Ireland High Performance trip to the country and he is delighted to be back. He feels at home with the people, the culture and of course the steaks which he might reward himself with after his blistering finish.
“I’m really happy to be here to be honest, it’s really nice. It’s pretty hot and it’s at altitude so sometimes it’s hard to breathe! Especially going up the hills so I wouldn’t be used to it. I like the course, it suits me, quite long. Looking forward to tomorrow and seeing what it brings.
“I holed a putt for eagle on the last and everyone went wild. It was similar to the Irish Challenge where everyone was going wild if you holed a putt or did something. It’s nice, everyone has been great the fans have been great.
“I haven’t been in South Africa for ten years. I played three times here as an amateur. I played in Johannesburg, George and Port Elizabeth three years in a row. I haven’t been to Cape Town yet so I look forward to going there.
“I do like it here, the food is incredible, especially the steaks, might have one to celebrate my finish!”
Meanwhile Tom McKibbin struggled to a one-over 73 to drop back to five-under-par.
At the summit, it’s still Thriston Lawrence who remains on course for a wire-to-wire victory as he looks to notch his third DP World Tour win in twelve months and second on home soil.
The South African is eighteen-under-par after a 67 which included two closing birdies to edge ahead of Clement Sordet.