Conor Purcell has started as he means to go on with a top-8 finish in the opening Challenge Tour event of the season in Cape Town.
Purcell carded a two-under 70 to end the week on twelve-under-par, three shots adrift of winner Benjamin Follett-Smith of Zimbabwe.
The Portmarnock native got within two of the lead with back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 and while he needed a birdie on 18 and a prayer if he was going to get his maiden professional victory, he let a shot go on the last but he was pleased with his start to what promises to be a big season.
“It’s been a great week with so many positives,” said the 25-year-old. “Starting out the season you don’t know if things are going to be rusty and some parts of my game were but I felt like overall I did a good job so I’m happy.
“It’s great, a top-10 any week is good so to do it first week out is always nice so it’s nice to feel the competitive juices again and get competing.”
Purcell arrived full of confidence after a career-high T7 at the DP World Tour’s Australian Open in December which he Monday qualified for while he was down under attending his brother’s wedding.
Rather than come back and brace the freezing temperatures in Ireland, he stationed himself in Australia for the winter period in preparation for his first full season on the Challenge Tour and he feels refreshed and ready to attack the South African swing.
“I took a nice break, and breaks seem to do me the world of good. Just getting back into it fresh and not feeling like I am over golfed is a big thing for me,” explained Purcell who turned in 35 after birdies on 3 and 7 and a bogey on five before a brace of birdies on 10 and 11 put him back in the mix.
“Loads of confidence going forward but I think anyone who plays golf knows that you’re not guaranteed anything in this game so just go back to what we keep doing next week and do the same and see where it leaves us.”
Meanwhile Derry’s Ruaidhri McGee plunged to a final round 80 to fall to 72nd place on six-over-par.