Michael Hoey sizzles in Sicily with an opening 61

Bernie McGuire
Bernie McGuire

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Michael Hoey brilliantly reminded the golf world of his credentials posting a sizzling career low of 61 to share the lead on day one of the Rocco Forte Open at the Ventura Resort in Sicily.

Hoey, 38, had a real chance to shoot 59 with two holes to play on the course spectacularly located on the shores of the Mediterranean.

However, after just missing his eagle putt for a birdie on his 17th, the Belfast man, contesting his 285th Tour event, would have then needed to hole his second shot for eagle at the last.  Securing a par though, Hoey still managed to walk off with a big smile on his face in recording his lowest Tour score by a shot.

“I left the last two in the jaws, both putts, but I was nervous,” he said.

“It was hard to hit them past the hole but it’s nice to be nervous because I haven’t been nervous on a golf course for quite a while and it’s exciting to be such a good score. But it is my best ever score, no bogeys, doesn’t get much better.”
Hoey commenced his round from the 11th on the par 71 lay-out and had soon raced to five-under through seven holes.

The current World No. 663rd ranked golfer then birdied three holes in succession from his ninth to jump to eight-under par. He pared the next four before moving to nine-under when he birdied his 16th.

Then at his 17th, Hoey had around a 15-foot putt for eagle before settling for par and moving to 10-under. At his final hole Hoey left his birdie, as he commented, ‘right in the jaws of the hole’ to finish the day tied with Sweden’s Sebastian Soderberg who grabbed an eagle and eight birdies in his 60.

Spain’s Alvaro Quiros who, like Hoey, in striving to break back full-time on the main Tour, capped his round with an ace early in his day for an eight-under par 63.
Hoey’s effort was his best score since a first day 62 at the 2006 Enjoy Jakarta Indonesian Open while it is also a lowest round since a final day 64 to finish T4th in the 2015 Russian Open.
Hoey is contesting just his seventh event since last October having lost his main Tour card last season.  He is contesting the earlier events of this new season thanks to invitations after a horrid 2016 year when Hoey contested 28 events but missed the cut in all but six, and at one stage the five-time Tour winner missed 11 cuts in succession.
The father of two found his way into the Sicily event off his lowly category and in fact, was the fifth last player into the €1m tournament while victory his week would afford Hoey a one-year exemption to the end of 2018.
West Waterford’s Gary Hurley eagled his 17th in a four-under par 67.

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