Conor Purcell recovered from a double-bogey on sixteen with back-to-back closing birdies to leap into a share of the early first round lead at the UAE Challenge in Abu Dhabi.
Purcell carded a four-under 68 at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club where Waterford’s Gary Hurley is ambassador to join South Africa’s Brandon Stone at the summit after they coped with the blustery morning conditions.
No stranger to strong winds, the Portmarnock man opened with a birdie before three successive birdies around the turn saw him cruise to four-under. A bizarre double bogey on 16 where he stepped on his own golf ball – costing him a shot – didn’t derail his round as he finished in style with birdies on 17 and 18.
“On 16 I actually missed the green and then I made a mistake, I tripped over my golf ball,” explained Purcell. “I was looking at a different ball and tripped over mine for a shot penalty and didn’t get up and down.
“It was nice to get up and down after that and finish birdie, birdie and shoot a good score.”
The 25-year-old is ranked 26th in the Road to Mallorca Rankings, helped by picking up three top-7 finishes in as many starts to open his campaign. Since then he has gone off the boil slightly with two missed cuts and no finish better than T43 but he was pleased with his morning’s work as he looks to get back into the groove.
“It was a very solid day out there, it’s been blowing since early morning so I knew it would be a tough test. It’s generous off the tee and I hit it well and gave myself plenty of chances.
“I hit some iron shots close and had a nice little stretch at the turn having three in a row which always helps. I played solid all day.”
Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy shares third place on three-under through 15 holes of his opening round at the time of writing. Paul Dunne is one-under coming up 18 while Niall Kearney and Cormac Sharvin finished one and two-over.
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