Two way tie at NI Open as Sunday Shootout looms

Bernie McGuire
Bernie McGuire

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It was a difficult day for the Irish contenders at the NI Open, presented by Modest! Golf at Galgorm Castle.  On a contrasting day for weather conditions morning scoring was hampered by rain and wind while the afternoon brought a gentle Irish summers day.

Ireland’s challenge faded a little on Friday with leading player Gary Hurley, who shot 67 on day one, carded a 77 in the second round and unfortunately missed the cut. The best placed Irish players are now Damien McGrane, Cormac Sharvin, Neil O’Briain and Simon Thornton who are all on 140, six shots off the joint leaders Scotland’s Ross Kellett and England’s Tom Murray.

Out in the morning, Scotland’s Kellett played in rain reminiscent of his native highlands, his birdie-birdie finish taking him to eight-under-par after an impressive five-under second round 66. Murray’s round, by contrast, was mostly in sunshine, though a stiffer breeze had picked up in the afternoon, but the Englishman’s second successive 67 took him into a share of the lead at Galgorm Castle.

Kellett finished in the top 20 on his last outing in Sweden two weeks ago and he acknowledged that, with the European Challenge Tour season now beyond the halfway point, he needs a strong result soon.

“I played pretty solid, in horrible conditions,” said the 29-year-old. “It was blustery, cold, showers on and off – Scottish conditions you might say, and it always seems to be like this at some stage in the week when you come here.”

“I’ve not really been up there that much this year and there’s no shying away from the fact that we’re past halfway in the season now and it’s the same for everybody, we all need to get going.

“I’ve had some alright results but no sparkling results so I definitely need to kick on from here and make sure I can look forward to the rest of the season.”

Leading the tournament will not mean much, however, come this evening, when a second cut will see only the top 24 make it through to ‘Shootout Sunday’, a ground-breaking new format for this event.

A series of head-to-head knock-out stroke play matches will ultimately decide the winner, with the top eight after the third round seeded straight through into the second round of Sunday matches, and Kellett is a supporter of the innovation being shown by the organisers this week.

Overnight co-leader Gary King struggled on Day Two, his five-over 76 taking him to the cut mark of level par – 73 players will contest the third round, with a sudden death play-off after play tomorrow should there be a tie for the top 24 places.

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