Ronan Mullarney’s Challenge Tour preparations are coming along nicely as the Galway man shot a bogey-free eight-under 64 to take control of the Toro Tour San Roque in Southern Spain.
Eight birdies – three on the front nine and five on the back – with no blemishes on the card sees Mullarney take a four-stroke lead into the third and final round, though with a storm set to roll in overnight, a volatile final round may yet be in store at San Roque’s New Course.
“It’s been coming,” Mullarney said after his round. “I played ok the last few rounds, but always seemed to have one or two holes that caused a lot of trouble. I didn’t have that today, so it was a bit better.”
A bit better may be an understatement, but it was on the 10th hole in Monday’s opening round where he ran into trouble, making a triple-bogey seven which undid much of the good ground he’d covered on the front nine.
“I hit it in the bunker off the tee,” he explained. “Hit my second shot over the green, and then finished up with a three-putt as most mess-ups seem to go. But I birdied it today, so that was better.
“I won’t say I’m super-comfortable yet, but it’s getting there. The game is getting better.”
Mullarney has opened up a four-stroke lead over Spanish amateur Ignacio Mateo, and a five-stroke lead over the second-best placed professional in Germany’s Yannick Kohnen, and Cork’s John Hickey lies tied for fourth in the professional category after a round of +2.
In total, just five players are under par, with James Temple and Robert Brazil leading the way for the Irish amateurs, though both are well back despite being tied for seventh in the amateur bracket.
Despite holding the lead, Mullarney insists that the score is secondary as he eyes the opening event of the Challenge Tour season in South Africa in a fortnight’s time.
“I wasn’t expecting much coming down here [for three Toro Tour events] because I hadn’t competed in a while,” he said. “But no, it’s all preparation really. For once, playing in a competition, the score isn’t the be all and end all for me, and it usually would be. I’m happy just to leave feeling sharper than when I came.”