Hurley 15th after another strong finish as McKibbin drops off the pace

Ronan MacNamara

Gary Hurley (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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A staple of Gary Hurley’s first three events in his DP World Tour rookie season has been his ability to finish strong and he lived up to the billing once again as three birdies in his last seven holes maintained his position in the top-15 at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.

Hurley turned what was proving to be a stagnant moving day into a decent one with a one-under 71 for a five-under total. It leaves the West Waterford native nine shots adrift of Frenchman Antoine Rozner who pulled two clear of fellow countryman Julien Brun on -14 after a 68.

Hurley has found the first nine tough going this week, playing it over par everyday for a combined total of five-over. But he has been stellar on the back nine whether he starts his round or finishes it.

After dropped shots on the par-3 4th and then the par-3 8th for the third successive day, the 29-year-old bounced back in style with birdies on 12, 14 and 18 to share 15th place.

Tom McKibbin went the wrong direction on moving day after a four-over 76 dropped him back to one-over-par. The par-3s proved costly for the Holywood teenager who tripled the 11th and doubled the 15th. Neither player will be in the shakeup on Sunday as Rozner attempts to hold off Brun and Oliver Bekker in the final event of 2022 and he is looking to go one better than when he lost out in a playoff to Rasmus Hojgaard three years ago.

The Frenchman recovered brilliantly from back-to-back bogeys at the first and second on Saturday, carding seven birdies and a single bogey in his remaining 16 holes to get to 14 under par. Rozner saved his best until last on Moving Day, producing a wonderful tee-shot at the short 17th for a birdie there before closing his round with another gain on the 18th.

Rozner began the day in a share of the lead but bogeyed the first and second to slip to eight under. He bounced back with a tremendous birdie from long range on the fourth, with the ball hitting the flag on its way into the hole.

The 29-year-old made it back-to-back birdies at the fifth before picking up another shot on the seventh to move to 11 under. He dropped his third shot of the day on the tenth but holed matching birdie putts from close range at the 12th and 13th to grab a share of the lead on 12 under.

Rozner continued to give himself good birdie chances on the way home but had to wait until the short 17th for his next gain. After sending his tee-shot to a few feet and rolling in the putt on the 17th, he gave himself a good eagle chance at the 18th but had to settle for a closing birdie there.

Rozner was pleased with his day’s work considering the tricky conditions. He said: “It was tough out there. It was blowing a lot more than yesterday. It wasn’t easy at all. “The long game was tough and the putting was even worse, I thought. I struggled a little bit. I had a big putt on the fourth that helped me a lot, and made a birdie after that.

“So that helped me get the round going. After that it was very solid for the most part. I wish I could have maybe holed a couple more at the end but it is what it is and one more round to go. I feel like I missed a lot of opportunities but I still shot four under, so in those conditions it’s pretty good.

“That helps me for the confidence and hopefully I can use that for tomorrow.”

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