Ronan Mullarney’s early season form showed no signs of slowing as the Galway man fired a six-under round of 66 in the opening round of the Alps Tour’s Elin Bay Open at Egypt’s Sokhna Golf Club.
Mullarney, who has a win on the Toro Tour in the bag already this season, started on the 10th and came racing out of the traps with birdies at the first, second and fourth holes, before adding two more at 15 and 16 – his sixth and seventh – to reach the midpoint of his round at -5.
Not slowing down, he’d birdie the first hole to get to -6 before a bogey at the fourth halted the momentum momentarily, but he rebounded in style with a birdie-two at the fifth before adding another at the par 5 seventh to get to -7 and tied for the lead. Unfortunately, he’d bogey the par 4 ninth, but his round of -6 was the second best of the day and he’s just a shot behind first-round leader Jack Floydd.
An early tee-time for Mullarney on day two will give him the opportunity to post a number early and attempt to distance himself from the pack ahead of the third and final round on Thursday.
“I started on the back nine,” Mullarney said after his round, “and the back nine is the easier nine, it was calm for the first few holes, but then the wind picked up a bit on my back nine [the traditional front nine] and it was a little bit trickier.
“But there were plenty of chances, the greens are a little bit bumpy so it can be a little bit of a guessing game at times, but other than that, I gave myself a lot of wedges and if you can keep it on the short grass here then the chances will come.
“I’m pretty happy with today’s performance, but there’s a lot of golf left to be played and hopefully this was just the start of a good week.”
Paul McBride’s one-under 71 has him next-best placed of the four Irishmen in the field, and he started with four consecutive pars before dropping a shot at the fifth. Back-to-back birdies followed but he’d drop another one at the ninth to make the turn at level par. A birdie on the 12th was his only deviation from par on the back nine, leaving him in a tie for 37th at -1.
James Sugrue is a shot further back at level par, making two birdies and a bogey on his opening nine, then reversing the trend with two bogeys to one birdie on the way home to end the day in a tie for 54th and with work to do to make the 40-man cut after 36 holes.
Paul Murphy will require a low one tomorrow if he’s to earn himself a tee-time for Thursday’s final round after opening with a two-over-par 74. Birdies weren’t the problem for Murphy – he got four, but unfortunately offset these by carding six bogeys to finish the day in a tie for 74th in the 120-man field.
Floydd’s 65 saw the Englishman make eight birdies and one bogey to lead Mullarney by one, and the Galway man is one ahead of an eight-way tie for third at -5.